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Happy Birthday, MTV!

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Thirty-three years ago today, on August 1, 1981, MTV was born.

colorful-logosAnd where were Alan, Mark, Nina, Martha, and J.J. on that fateful night? They were in a basement in Fort Lee, New Jersey, huddled around a television set probably no larger than the one that was in your own home in 1981. According to the fantastic book VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, Mark Goodman recounted that the launch party took place in an old restaurant called The Loft. Ironically, the cast and crew of MTV had to head over the Hudson to watch their debut because Manhattan cable didn’t carry the channel!

Alan Hunter said: “We bonded that night. The rocket blasted off, and we looked at each other and realized we were the only five people on the planet doing what we were doing.”

We all know that the first video played on the station was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, but what other videos helped to round out that first hour of broadcasting? Thanks to the VJ’s book we can list the first 15 videos that aired on the network.
1. The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”
2. Pat Benatar, “You Better Run”
3. Rod Stewart, “She Won’t Dance With Me”
4. The Who, “You Better You Bet”
5. Ph.D., “Little Susie’s on the Top”
6. Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore”
7. The Prentenders, “Brass In Pocket”
8. Todd Rundgren, “Time Heals”
9. REO Speedwagon, “Take It On The Run”
10. Styx, “Rockin’ the Paradise”
11. Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, “When Things Go Wrong”
12. Splitz Enz, “History Never Repeats”
13. .38 Special, “Hold On Loosely”
14. April Wine, “Just Between You and Me”
15. Rod Stewart, “Sailing”

Man, TWO Rod Stewart videos in the same block. The ‘80s were a magical time!

Of course I know I’m not the only individual to ever look back upon that special day, and thankfully someone more enterprising that I has already grouped all of these videos together for our collective consumption on Youtube. So thank you, Youtube user Ronnie Forscgeb! You’ve made my life about half and hour easier and more entertaining than if I went and did this myself.

I notice that two videos were removed or unplayable from the playlist: Rod Stewart’s “She Won’t Dance With Me” and Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”; if you feel it necessary to see them in order to fully relive the first hour of MTV, I found them, separately, for you:

Rod is really rocking that asymmetrical pantsuit! Honestly, if I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I would wonder when Kathy Lee Crosby took a detour into rock and roll.

This is definitely not the official video for the Cliff Richard tune, but it’s such a good song, that I thought you should listen to it. Plus, the sound quality is really good.

Finally, here’s Rod again, who is “Sailing”…in the Hudson River? Dressed like Popeye, this video is either an homage to “New York, New York” from On the Town, or maybe Rod was on his way to the MTV launch party.

I-want-my-mtv-mtv-logoFor even more awesome footage from the first day of MTV, including the pre-recorded clips of the VJ’s throwing to a new video or coming back from an old video, head over to Platypuscomix, which has amazing-quality clips from the first day, including the original commercials that aired between the videos (I always love to see old commercials on the VHS tapes that I kept from when I was a kid), and the original slight technical gaffes that the MTV crew experienced during the broadcast.

These days you can still hear Alan, Martha, Mark, and Nina on Sirius XM’s “80s on 8″ channel.

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Vintage Character Cake Pans

“Character” Cake Pans were all the rage in the 1970s and 80s. I recently found these three hanging out at a local antique mall. What kid wouldn’t want to find their birthday candles stuck into a cake in the shape of of Bugs Bunny, Superman, or Tweety Bird for their birthday?

I know these were intended for kids, but I’ll turn 40 years old at the end of this summer and there’s nothing I would rather see on my table than this:

Star Wars Birthday Card

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thirty-nine years old. Who would have ever thought.

My Mom baked every one of my birthday cakes that I can remember. Thirty years ago today, she made this one for me:

“Happy Birthday, Robbie.” (That’s me.) By the nine candles on the cake I can tell you this was in 1982. The action figure on top of the cake is a Twin Pod Cloud Car Pilot from The Empire Strikes Back. The vehicle is a CAP-2 Captivator, a Star Wars “Mini Rig” — one of Kenner’s many “extended universe” (things that never appeared in the movies) items. As you can see from the box below, the CAP-2 was used by bounty hunters to capture Rebel scum. There’s really no reason a Twin Pod Cloud Car Pilot should be anywhere near a CAP-2, but somehow these two met on the planet of Chocolate Frostania, and the rest is history.

For what it’s worth, I still own both the CAP-2 and the Twin Pod Cloud Car Pilot. If the wind is just right, you can almost catch a whiff of that chocolate frosting …

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Happy Birthday, Herbie Hancock!

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Herbie Hancock, master musician and apparently owner of a lot of freaky robots, turns 72 years old today. Happy Birthday, Herbie!

Back when I was a kid the robots in this video really freaked me out. Now I think it’s pretty awesome. What I wouldn’t give for a trio of robotic, dancing pants …

Hancock took a slightly scaled-down version of his robotic backing crew on the road with him. Here’s Mr. Hancock performing Rockit at the 1984 Grammy Awards.

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An E-vite, Circa 1981

We had a kick-ass Hallmark shop in our neighborhood. It’s where we bugged our moms to buy us Peanuts stuff (always overpriced — did Charles M. Schulz know how much we kids were on the hook for Snoopy’s raincoat?) and where we went for our party invitations. This is actually a really classy one because it folded down the middle.

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Party! We'll eat ice cream cake and watch "Clash of the Titans."

A sleepover, no doubt. So watch out — I’m really gonna be cranky and smell like Taco Doritos the next day.

Star Wars Birthday Card

Happy Star Wars Cake Day!

Today is my 38th birthday, so Happy Birthday to me!

Every year for my birthday, my mom would bake me a cake and decorate it herself. One of her favorite things to do was to buy me a toy and stick it directly on top of the cake. I can remember getting many Star Wars toys that way. One year, she made me a strawberry cake with pink icing and on top of it was a Bespin Guard, a Twin Pod Cloud Car Pilot, and a Twin Pod Cloud Car. I don’t know if everybody had this experience, but I have distinct memories of licking icing off of my new Star Wars toys and action figures each year.

I still get Star Wars cakes for my birthday from time to time. Back in the mid-90s when I got married, my sister-in-law continued the tradition by making me my very own Star Wars Groom’s cake. Yes, that’s one of my toys stuck in it (Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter), and yes, I had to lick the icing off of it after it was removed from the cake. Some things never change.

Star Wars Wedding Cake

I would really like to pick up a couple of those old Star Wars-shaped cake pans from the 70s and 80s, but they seem to be highly guarded by collectors and fetch a pretty penny. Maybe I will get lucky and get one tonight for my birthday!