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That Time When VH-1 Gave Away Every Corvette!

What do you do when you’re the Number Two music video station in the late 1980s, and there are only two contenders to begin with? How do you bump your ratings through the roof? You start the world’s first successful reality TV show…!
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No. Wait. That was the other channel…

You create a call-in giveaway contest on a scale that has never been duplicated…! That’s what you do.

VH-1 came to our televisions on the heels of mega-hit channel MTV more than 35 years ago on New Year’s Day 1985 under the Viacom Media umbrella. The two stations battled back and forth for viewership across several decades before both channels eventually dropped music videos from their lineup and started showing reality shows and reruns of Saved by the Bell.
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But in the mid-1980s, viewership of Top 40 music videos is what brought in the advertisers, and advertisers paid the bills. Even though MTV and VH-1 were owned by the same company, VH-1 was targeted toward a more mature audience, and MTV was relegated to the pop and “bubble-gum pop” crowd.

So, how do you draw in a more-sophisticated audience with a more-mature taste? You give them a chance to win a Corvette.

And how do you blow that idea out of the water, and turn it up to 11…? You offer one lucky winner a Corvette from every year of production.
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And that’s exactly what VH-1’s marketing guru Jim Cahill did. He used almost $1 million of Viacom’s bankroll to track down and purchase one example from all of the 36 years that a Corvette sports car had been made – from the first one in 1953, to the latest model available during the contest – 1988.

[Via] Two By Two 2
Not all the cars were what you’d consider “cherry.” Most were considered “drivers” and not all were completely “collectable.”

Of the 36 models Cahill collected, 14 were convertibles, and only 11 had manual transmissions. Cahill later told an automotive magazine reporter that he drove each of the 36 cars home – one a night for 36 nights – and some of them were “nightmarishly bad.”

But, as we retro collectors sometimes say, “They existed,” and the contest to determine one sole winner was underway.

To enter, a person had to call a 900 number at a charge of $2 per entry. For each call, VH-1 pocketed $1.49.

More than 190,000 people called the number on the first day with more than 1.3 million folks registering altogether. I’ll save you from doing the math. In the first two weeks of the promotion, VH-1 almost doubled their $1 million investment.

The winner of the contest didn’t have to try very hard. Dennis Amadeo only made one call to the contest, and the New York carpenter became the poster-boy of every teen male in the country.

Amadeo flew out to California to take ownership of all his sports cars, and when presented with all the keys by ex-Beach Boy Mike Love, the bag weighed five pounds.

[Via] Jim Cahill
And that’s the end of the story, right? Amado kept all the cars and still has a garage full of vintage and highly-collectable sports cars in his Long Island garage?

Of course not. And that’s where the story takes a drastic left-turn into Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and things get crazy.

Shortly after taking possession of the Corvettes, Amadeo sold them all to a psychedelic artist of the 1960s, Peter Max. The sale price was $250,000 in cash, $250,000 in artwork and a portion of the proceeds should the cars be sold again.
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Max had a vision to turn all 36 Corvettes into a work of colorful art, but life events got in the way of beginning the project, and the cars were stored in the basement of a Brooklyn apartment building.
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And time took its toll on the Corvettes. None of the cars were prepped for long-term storage, and soon became non-functional.
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In 2005, a group of Corvette enthusiasts searched for the cars and found them, and lost them again after Max refused to listen to their pleas to let the cars be saved and restored.
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Now, more than 28 years after the cars were given away, Max wanted to purchase additional cars to use for his “project,” but eventually agreed to sell the lot to a family who intend to restore and sell the cars. Many have already been brought back beyond their condition when given away in 1988.
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“My Date With A Duke”

As I have said in other blog entries, returning to the United States in 1979 after spending three years in Germany was like stepping out of a time machine and leaving 1916 to appear in 2016.

In the United States, video games were new, fast-food restaurants were everywhere and there was more than ONE channel on the television.

My first full day back in the states was a Friday. How in the world could I remember that fact more than 36 years later? Simple…My cousins sat me down that evening to watch The Dukes of Hazzard on CBS.

I was very reluctant at first to take a seat in front of the television with them that night. I knew that being a “duke” involved the British monarchy, and that was the last thing I wanted to do after spending the last three years confined to Central Europe.

And then, with the twang of an electric guitar lick, it began. I spent the next 60 minutes asking my cousins all sorts of questions about the show – and getting few answers during the commercial breaks.

[Via] BygHoss
I tried to catch the previous episodes during the re-run season, and remained a faithful follower of the show through the remainder of the Dukes’ seven seasons on television – even during the infamous “Coy and Vance” period. It was a show like no other before it, and although many have tried to recapture the “lightning in a bottle” the show produced, nothing has come close since then.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the mid-1990s.

I was selling Internet service at Rivergate Mall in a northern suburb of Nashville, Tenn., in 1996. My job involved selling dial-up and ISDN Internet connections to people wandering through the mall on their way to purchase an Orange Julius smoothie.

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The Internet of 1996 had only recently been expanded thanks to the World Wide Web, and more people were anxious to try it out. So, to help feed their need, we sold a floppy disk with setup programs to install our dial-up service onto the beige boxes in Grandma’s kitchen across the country.

Internet In A Mall will probably be the topic of a future Retroist Blog offering, but I included it here because it was the catalyst to this entire story.

Two of my first Internet customers were a woman named Jett Williams and her husband, Keith Adkinson. After purchasing our service, they offered to pay for my time if I could drive out to their home and install their software. With nothing on my calendar, and the prospect of newly-acquired pizza money in my pocket, I agreed.

When I arrived at their country home, I quickly realized things were not as they appeared. It turns out that Jett is the daughter of country music legend Hank Williams, and half-sister to Bocephus himself, Hank Williams Jr. She has an amazing story, and I’d recommend checking out the Wikipedia listing about her to learn more.

After hooking up their Internet, they were pleased with the job, I was asked to create a website for her and some other tech stuff. I accepted, and they invited me to listen to Jett perform the next night at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville – located at the back door of the original home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, the Ryman Auditorium.

My boss, Dennis Thibodeaux, and I both went to the show together. We found a table in the back and proceeded to enjoy a couple adult beverages when a blonde female approached us and asked if she could sit in the empty seat at our table.

We graciously asked her to join us and introduced ourselves.

“Hello, my name is Stella. Stella Parton.”

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My lower jaw fell open and I’m sure it was far from indiscreet.

“You mean like the Stella Parton from the Dukes of Hazzard television show?” I asked, while stumbling over every word.

“Darling, I want to hug your neck,” Stella said. “”It seems like everyone’s first sentence to me is to ask about my sister Dolly when I first meet them, but you’re one of the first to mention my own career..!”

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Yes, friends…I was sipping an adult beverage in a Nashville honky-tonk with the beautiful sister of Dolly Parton, an actress who appeared on one of my favorite TV shows, and a well-known country entertainer.

It turns out that Stella and Jett were friends and she was at Tootsie’s to hear Ms. Williams perform. I didn’t waste the opportunity, and she happily answered questions from me between performances.

Stella appeared in Season 1, Episode 10 “Deputy Dukes” which aired April 13, 1979. She played Mary Beth Malone – a ruthless criminal who sees the error of her ways by the end of the episode.
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I asked about Denver (Uncle Jessie) Pyle, and she said he was funny, smart and a delight to work with. She said the same about her scenes with James (Rosco) Best, Tom (Luke) Wopat and John (Bo) Schneider.

Our evening together ended with Jett’s rendition of her father’s hit song, “Your Cheating Heart” and Stella Parton gave me another big hug before we parted ways. She autographed the label from her beer and gave it to me before leaving.

Stella has made other television appearances through the years, and has received several awards during her singing career.

[Via] Brandstrans

But, I will always remember her for the hugs and kind words – just because I remembered her as my favorite Duke…
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Tom Whalen Has Released Transformers Miniprints

I may not know art but I know that I like Tom Whalen’s artwork. I bet if you do a quick search here on The Retroist you will see we dig his style. The Wolf Man, Popeye, The Great Pumpkin, The Goonies, The Twilight Zone, Gigantor, and even Soundwave from the Transformers.

They have all been subjects of Tom Whalen and to a one are beautiful illustrations. He has managed to capture the spirit – the essence of each subject perfectly. The other day at the Acidfree Gallery they began to sell limited edition prints of Tom Whalen’s take on the Transformers. Some of the iconic Generation One Transformers that is!

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So which Transformers made the cut?


Tom Whalen has split the miniprints into two different sets. The heroic Autobots and the dastardly Decepticons of course. First up let us take a look at which of the Autobots were chosen…
Optimus Prime. Hey, can you really pick a more iconic character than the leader of the Autobots?
All images courtesy of Tom Whalen and Acidfree Gallery.

All images courtesy of Tom Whalen and Acidfree Gallery.


Prowl
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Ratchet
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Bumblebee
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Jazz
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Also included and as the Acidfree Gallery states on their site – Tom Whalen’s illustration for Ironhide will be randomly inserted. Only twenty of the Ironhide miniprints will be made by the way. So he is the chase miniprint I guess you can say?
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Which Decepticons did Tom Whalen choose?


I think that the artist went with some rather interesting choices with the ‘Decticreeps’. It is completely understandable of course that Megatron was picked – especially with Prime chosen for the Autobots.
All images courtesy of Tom Whalen and Acidfree Gallery.

All images courtesy of Tom Whalen and Acidfree Gallery.


Starscream is a solid choice as well…
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As is Soundwave. Three solid characters that make up the core of the Decepticon forces.
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Tom Whalen might have went with another of the Seekers like Thundercracker or even Skywarp but chose Shockwave
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The artist also chose to shine the spotlight on Rumble instead of say Laserbeak or Ravage.
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For the Decepticons it is Frenzy that has been given the honor of being the chase Miniprint.
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So that makes actually three of the illustrations for the Decepticons that involved Soundwave in one form or another. Which if Transformers: The Movie taught us anything is logical as Soundwave is superior…

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Each set of five miniprints will cost fifty dollars and there are some variant versions that run a little higher. I can only tell you that there are differences in what looks to be the material it is printed on. Although some of the higher priced sets include original sketches by Tom Whalen. So if your home or office need some beautiful Transformers artwork I suggest you hop on over to Acidfree Gallery.

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What the SMEG is a SMEGAZINE?

And if you don’t know what a SMEG is…

Sensible readers amongst you might guess that a smegazine is the PR exercise of the high-end Italian appliance-maker Smeg. It isn’t. The British readers amongst you will almost certainly jump to a conclusion about the mining ship “Red Dwarf” and her crew. They, or course, would be abso-smegging-lutely right!

Red Dwarf, the TV show, is about to start broadcasting its 11th series, some 28 years after its 1988 debut. For many British sci-fi fans, this is very special, as we’ve grown up with the ‘boys from the Dwarf’.

The series premise is pure comedy gold; the Mining Ship ‘Red Dwarf’ finds itself far from Earth, 3 million years into the future, with a crew consisting of Dave Lister (the last Human alive), his evolved cat (the aptly named Cat!), a Hologram of Arnold J. Rimmer (the long-dead crew member who spoke the most words to Dave, most of which were Smeg!) and Holly, a super-computer with an IQ of 6000 who has gone a little peculiar during her time alone. A later series introduced the service mechanoid Kryten.

Now, onto that Smegazine…

smegazine issue 1

In 1992, after 4 increasingly successful seasons, Red Dwarf gained its first monthly magazine. Issue 1 (above) was jut a magazine (that couldn’t be sold to SMEG HEADS). By issue 3 they’d coined a new term, and the smegazine was born. Running for 23 issues, the smegazine contained a mixture of news, reviews, interviews, comic strips and competitions and you can read them over at archive.org – you’d be a total gimboid to ignore the opportunity, the comics are a particular highlight!

Issues one to three contain a comic for the first TV episode ‘The End’ and the artwork is amazing! Other highlights in issue one include a beginners guide, an interview with Chris Barrie (Rimmer), Holly’s Amazing Facts (including her fascination with footballer Kevin Keegan!), a surprisingly in-depth Studio Report, and lots of silly competition and trivia pages. Issue two has details of America’s attempt to re-create the show, the start of a TV series guide to the episodes thus far (in the wrong order!) and the diaries of Arnold J Rimmer! Seriously, go and start reading them!

smegazine issues 2 and 3

You might have spotted that I mentioned a US pilot. You can see the first 1992 pilot over on Youtube… warning, it isn’t great!

And for reasons that are ‘too stupid to go into’, they had a second stab at another pilot IN THE SAME YEAR! Warning, this isn’t great either!

Fortunately the British original has plenty of clips on Youtube to remind you of its brilliance!

What a SMEG HEAD!

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There Is A LEGO Knight Rider Set. No, Really!

That isn’t a fanmade Knight Rider set from the Brothers Brick, that is an official LEGO set – a Knight Rider set that should hit store shelves next February.

So this Knight Rider set means LEGO is going to take over the world, right?


Pretty much. At least in regards to pop culture retro related properties. I mean, please don’t get me wrong but who is it that you think LEGO is aiming this Knight Rider set to? I say it is most definitely the likes of us that visit The Retroist!

That isn’t all that LEGO is making for us retro-minded fans though. I previously shared the information about the upcoming LEGO Dimensions sets besides Knight Rider back in June. You might remember we are also getting Gremlins
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The A-Team
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Mission Impossible
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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
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and last but not least The Goonies – or at least Sloth from that film.
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Why should we care about a LEGO Knight Rider though?


I know there may be a few of you out there that are asking yourself this very question. You are all dead to me. Just kidding of course – but how can you not get excited about a LEGO minifig version of David Hasselhoff, I mean Michael Knight?
Image courtesy of io9.

Image courtesy of io9.


My friends, please listen to me. We are lucky enough to live in a time where by next year you will be able to have Dr. Peter Venkman of 1984’s Ghostbusters driving K.I.T.T. through Gremlins’ Kingston Falls!
Image courtesy of io9.

Image courtesy of io9.


I kind of think that LEGO has made some amazing and excellent choices with Knight Rider and the other retro properties. In fact I believe I couldn’t be more impressed if they suddenly announced they were releasing a set for…

A huge thank you to Andrew Liszewski of io9 for the heads up on the Knight Rider set. Hey, if like myself you are geeking out over this release and need to pass the time until February, you can always keep Hasselhoff’s True Survivor on constant loop, right?

[via] DavidHasselhoffVEVO

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There Was An Automan Action Figure?!

Automan was a television series that aired on ABC starting in 1983 for a mere one season. Obviously inspired by TRON which the showrunners must have believed was going to be the megahit of 1982 – sadly, much like that film this sci-fi/superhero series failed to find it’s intended audience.

Image courtesy of Shout! Factory.

Image courtesy of Shout! Factory.


In all honesty – the reason I loved the series so much is that Automan premiered at the exact right time for someone like myself who was devoted to video games, computers and of course TRON. Even though it took far too long in my humble opinion, Shout! Factory has come to the rescue and released all 13 episodes on DVD.

Video S.

So what is Automan about?


Automan was the brainchild of the late great Glen A. Larson who you might know from Battlestar Galactica, B.J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy, and Magnum P.I. to name a few. The story is about a Police Officer named Walter Nenicher, played by Desi Arnaz, Jr. who is also a computer programmer. One night at the station while working on a holographic program for an ‘Automatic Man’ – the creation is brought to life and the duo quickly team up to fight crime. Automan by the way was played by Chuck Wagner.

The duo were helped by Automan’s sidekick named Cursor who could ‘draw’ solid light creations for Automan and Walter when needed like a car that was capable of 90-degree turns…
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…a helicopter which was always my person favorite…
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and even a combination of car and jet when needed.
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I remember once or twice that Cursor also became a motorcycle – I just couldn’t find any images of it.

Thanks for the history lesson, now what about this Automan toy?


Why is everyone in such a hurry these days? I was getting to the point. While I was certainly a fan of the television show the disappointing ratings not only killed any hopes for a second season but the prospect of toys. Or at least that is what I always thought. It turns out that the series did in fact have quite a few toys created – the catch though is they weren’t sold in America.

I was under the impression for the past 33 years that there was no merchandise whatsoever – so when I stumbled across an image of the Automan action figure by Acamas Toys the other day…I naturally assumed it was a fake. A custom figure. I was totally wrong.
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A big thank you to 80sKid.Com for the images you see below – because Halloween costumes, die-cast vehicles, and even a toy watch that launched ‘drone’ copters were made and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com

Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com


Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com

Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com


Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com

Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com


Take a closer look at that Automan costume set – 80sKid.Com totally has it signed by Chuck Wagner!
Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com

Image courtesy of 80sKid.Com


So when you have a few moments, make sure to visit 80sKid.Com and check out all of the merchandise that was created for Automan…if you need me I will be on eBay trying to get some of this stuff for myself.

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Wait a minute…that last video is from Chuck Wagner?! Like as in the actor who played Automan?

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Eleven Minutes in Random Television Watching!

Several years back (actually, it was eight years ago), I was dating a guy who “gifted” me portions of his recorded videocassette collection. I had to give them back, but the purpose was for me to dub the material on the tapes to DVD-R discs. It sounds pointless that anyone would want to do this, but as a nostalgia hobbyist (even back then), the most mundane finds on a videocassette are fun.

I’d like to think I would have gotten more from his collection, had I not gone back to work after a winter layoff from my last job, and if we hadn’t broken up a few months after that. That second factor is the bigger reason I don’t have more than the massive collection I already have. The relationship may not have lasted, but the nostalgic gold goes on and on!

One of the tapes consisted of several May 1995 recordings of Home Improvement, a show I never particularly cared for, but what I found within the tape suited my nostalgic curiosity quite nicely. (Please don’t submit hate mail or declarations for that admission. I’ve just never been a big Tim Allen fan.)

My ex-boyfriend’s mother must have had VCR duty on one particular night, because she did something many parents did in the day (and something I’m equally guilty of having done once). In all honesty, she probably forgot she had the VCR recording, and there was a commercial on, because, this happened.

It all started off innocently enough. You’re taping a show, and a commercial comes on, but you forget you’re taping the show and decide to see what’s on another channel. Except you don’t stay on the channel, you decide “hey, what the heck? I’ll just keep clicking!”

So you do!

And then you wind up on the cable access channel…the one that shows real estate listings and plays a rockin’ 90s soundtrack. You feel like 1995 found you and embraced you like a friend.

Dionne Ferris. 1995 one-hit wonder for the win!

I’m not from the area where these houses are listed (but I’ve been through there), and I can tell you with 100% certainty that Washington Township is a nice place to live.

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Then there are the real estate agents. It’s like they went to the JC Penney portrait studio and had their pictures taken on the same day.

I particularly love Tom Duffy. Jacket on, jacket slung over shoulder. No way this guy isn’t a total stud.

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Jack exudes confidence as he hits on your through the television screen.

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And yes, you are seeing double!

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Ex-boyfriend’s mom, proving not to be idle, begins clicking around again. She eventually made her way back to Home Improvement, but she’s not done yet. Oh no, not yet.

QVC, some lady in love with mashed potatoes…

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…NJN (a New Jersey local network connected to PBS), UPN, the WB, UPN again, some nature documentary (????), these people…

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Whose eyes may actually look like this…

High School baseball, a Philadelphia Phillies game (shudder), random clicking, shoes on the Home Shopping Club 2 (yes, a second Home Shopping Club Channel, remember that?)…

Fifth position in heels, baby!

Fifth position in heels, baby!

…that really good Michael Douglas movie Falling Down (she turned it on during the climactic scene towards the end!), then an extended stop on The Preview Guide.

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Remember those days? I swear, I used to LOVE this channel, which is like TV Guide for people who hate to read TV Guide and watch movie trailers and TV promos all day long. I myself loved TV Guide (I read it for the articles). National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (remember that?!), some guy ringing a bell, Court TV, basketball, hockey, and finally, Shirley MacLaine on Larry King Live round out this collection of channel surfing.

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They wore their best for this interview. He in his suspenders, she in her…finest man’s evening wear. I don’t write this stuff, I just find it.

To be honest, Shirley MacLaine clip was longer than I let it run, but I am only looking to save your sanity. After all, you’re sitting through almost twelve minutes of an old ex-boyfriend’s mom changing channels.

But enough of me telling you about all of this, why not watch for yourself, and revel in the glory of 1990s television yourself?

Uploaded by Allison Venezio

Allison’s tape collection doesn’t jewels jewels as this, but still contains some interesting finds (as evidenced by previous articles). She displays many of these unusual jewels over at her blog, Allison’s Written Words. However, she loves saving the truly unusual for Retroist readers (you’re welcome). If you want, you can follow her blog on Facebook, and drop her a tweet @AllisonGeeksOut.

Thank you, Allison’s ex-boyfriend’s mom.

Also…if her boyfriend hadn’t stolen her heart already, he’d have some stiff competition from Tom and Jack.

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