The First Movie I Ever Recorded on VHS

I can still picture the hard plastic case—the only one in our VHS tape collection—peeking out above the other paperboard covers. And I remember the feeling of permanence when writing those two timeless words in blue pen on the card insert: Weird Science

My family was not rich. My mom and dad worked hard and thankfully had the help of my grandmother and aunts in raising me and my three siblings—yep, four wild kids in one house. Suffice to say: the latest technology was NOT of utmost concern (at least to any of the adults). To be honest, it was not of much importance to us children either; tech fads were not a big thing just yet.

So, getting our first VCR was kind of an understated yet monumental moment in our lives. Until this landmark occasion, repeated viewings were left to the powers that be at broadcast television companies—unless you factor in HBO, who would replay any given movie about 30 or so times in as many days. (AND without commercials! What?!)

Read: 12 Movies My Little Brother Watched Over and Over When We Were Kids

The huge, almost-briefcase-sized VHS video cassette recording machine sat up on a shelf under the cable box with its enormous (by today’s standards) square-inch buttons for Play, Stop, Rew, Ffwd, Pause and Record. The first VHS tape we had, it may have come with the purchase, was equally epic. An actual hardcover plastic box (“heavy-duty” if you will) that had kind of a gray craquelure feel to it. The title card would slip into a clear plastic on the front.

We’d later switch to TDK or Sony or whatever cheaper brand was available. We’d also begin recording more than one movie to a tape with the discovery of what SP, LP and EP meant. But, for the very first cinematic gem we would immortalize to cassette, it would be one movie and that one movie only.

In my memory, I seem to recall kind of leading the charge on what we would record. I may have been the only one who really cared; my older sister was ahead of me and my two younger siblings by four years and arguably the most popular of all of us. I said arguably guys, don’t get mad at me.

To my point, she was probably too busy with an actual social life to care about television. And my younger siblings, sorry again guys, may have just been outvoted by me. Because I, of course, was older and arguably wiser.

In any case, the very first film we (or I, really) recorded on VHS was that bastion of motion pictures: Weird Science.

Generations after mine will never understand the concerns of “taping” a movie from TV:

• Making sure the VCR or TV is set to channel 3.
• Hitting BOTH play AND record buttons (why wasn’t the one button enough?).
• Pausing the tape for commercials if you weren’t recording a cable show.
• Remembering to un-pause when the show started again after the break.
• Making sure the tape head was clean.
• Specifying AM or PM if you were programming something to record.
• Having a blank tape (or enough space left to get the whole recording).
• Checking to be sure the copy protection tab was intact (or taped over).
• Staying awake through the whole movie to not get the next movie or interstitials.

All that aside, I’m fairly certain we recorded the ‘80s classic from HBO. The film written and directed by John Hughes, of course, featured Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly LeBrock. Hughes was on a bit of a tear after writing and directing Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club (both of which also featured Hall).

Read: 100 Three-Name ‘80s Stars

Danny Elfman sang the Oingo Boingo theme song which somehow fit right in on 1980s’ pop radio. The story is a basic Frankenstein remake but, instead of the mad scientist, you have two pubescent geeky teens. And naturally instead of a monster, the unpopular mechanics use a (laughably “state-of-the-art”) computer to simulate a dream woman into being.

Looking back, recording Weird Science not only set the tone for my love of films. The film itself reflects my life experience. Nerdy, young, fun, interests in movies and music and comedy and science and the arts, with a love—and deep respect—for women. As well as a general happiness of just being alive.


Also see: Weird Science Trailer

The Golden Days of Goldie Hawn

Sure, she may have become big in the late ’60/early ’70s and perhaps had some success in the ’90s, but the golden era of Goldie Hawn (for me at least) was the ’80s.

Goldie Jean Hawn (yep, Goldie is her real name) quickly parlayed her 1968 Emmy-nominated turn on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In into movie roles. She started off with an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her work on 1970’s Cactus Flower. Then continued to grace the big screen over the next decade with movies like Butterflies Are Free, The Sugarland Express and Shampoo among others.

My introduction to the blonde bombshell came in 1980 with her starring role in Private Benjamin. She earned her second Academy Award nomination as the socialite-turned-soldier opposite Eileen Brennan, Armand Assante, Albert Brooks and more. (She lost the Oscar to Coal Miner’s Daughter star Sissy Spacek.)

(longer trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTuip4gVJWg)

The next big hit for me featuring Hawn was 1986’s Wildcats — in which she played a high school track coach who decides to take over the football coach job at an inner-city school. She starred in a cast that also included Swoosie Kurtz, Jan Hooks, Nipsey Russell, Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Mykelti Williamson.

(also check out Hawn and the cast singing over the closing credits in a song you may hate me for reminding you of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CfnKEYAbyo)

And nothing tops Hawn’s comedic talent than her role in 1987’s Overboard as an heiress who is struck with amnesia. Hawn starred opposite her real-life partner Kurt Russell for a third time (following The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) and Swing Shift (1984)). Russell plays a carpenter that she’s wronged who decides to use her memory loss to his advantage. Hijinks ensue.

(*All three of the above movies are available to watch in full online. Have a Hawn-athon!)

Her other 1980’s films include Seems Like Old Times (1980), Best Friends (1982), Swing Shift and Protocol (1984). And she went on to star in Bird on a Wire (1990), Death Becomes Her (1992), The First Wives Club (1996), Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and The Out-of-Towners (1999). The 2000s—her 5th decade in the biz—brought Town & Country (2001) and The Banger Sisters (2002).

The actress was last heard in 2013 lending her voice to the animated series Phineas and Ferb. She has also dabbled in producer, directing, writing and singing.

“Isn’t It Cool in Pink” — Cherry 7-Up Makes a Splash

You can probably already hear the tune echoing from the recesses of your mind: Isn’t it cool… in pink/ Isn’t it cool… to drink.

The 1987 introduction of the cherry-flavored version of the popular (usually lemon-lime) soda came along with a television commercial campaign that used the trademarked phrase “Isn’t It Cool in Pink” — with no punctuation at the end. I suppose it was implying it IS cool, rather than asking you if you think so. 7-Up got all rhetorical on us.

A number of variations of the song popped up in the years to follow: some with a female voice, some a male voice, some had a rock feel, some a softer jazzy one, etc. And the setting of the commercials varied from places like a rock concert to diner to art gallery.

The style of the ads, however, remained the same: a short love story (usually a lot of furtive glances) filmed in black and white that featured parts of the actors’ clothing or certain other props in the isolated color pink. The can of soda was, of course, in color.

A young-and-unknown Matt LeBlanc (“Friends”) starred in one of the TV spots opposite an also-young Terry Farrell (“Back to School,” “Deep Space Nine”).

Check out a bunch of the different commercials for Cherry 7-Up here:

Now’s (Still) the Time to Shop at ShopRite’s Can Can Sale

It’s July, so that means it’s probably Lobster Fest or Shrimp Fest at Red Lobster (it’s always one or the other, isn’t it?). Well it may be, but actually, it means it’s “Can Can” time at ShopRite.

I remember this being big in the ’80s when I was a kid—and I was not at all surprised to hear the radio spot for it just the other day. (If it ain’t broke…) The annual event started in 1971 as January tradition, then grew into a twice-annual stock-up sale on (you’ve probably guessed), yes, canned goods. (Though, contrary to the name, it also includes non-canned items as well. Boo!) The Summer Can Can, which runs in July, was added in 2002.

The catchy commercial jingle, set to a can-can tune of course, would boast a chorus singing the lyrics:

“Now, Shop Rite does the can-can
Selling lots of brands of everything in ‘Cans.’ Cans!
Today, it’s great to save some cash
So go to ShopRite’s Can Can Bash”

[then it would close out with:]

Now’s the time to shop at ShopRite’s Can Can Bash!
Now’s the time to stock up while the values last!”

You can take a look back at more videos of the commercials through the years at ShopRite’s own youtube channel.

12 Movies My Little Brother Watched Over and Over When We Were Kids

He denies none of this. And even freely admits to Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but questions my use of the words “over and over” on the others. (Yes, I fact-checked this list with my brother.)

For years, my brother and I shared a room; as did my sisters, but this is not about them. In the years before that, our humbler, younger selves even shared a bed—that poor kid. He’s fine; he’s got a freaking PhD. Don’t worry about him.

Living with a younger brother was fine and fun enough—even if he was “the baby.” We certainly heard enough of THAT when we were kids. I do give him credit for actually getting out alive. Youngest of four! The poor kid.

Of the many memories I have of my lil’ bro, I recall often his tendency to watch and re-watch a movie ad nauseam. We’re talking the VHS tapes (from whenever he recorded them on HBO) would start warping. Stopping only when he found another movie to watch on loop like he was studying it for a dissertation. (His dissertation for his PhD, by the way, made no mention of these cinematic gems.)

In any case, his proclivity for films were not the typical masterpieces you’d find on any “Greatest Works on Celluloid” lists. I’d be surprised if you find a version of some of them that’s not still on VHS. (I’d almost pay for a laserdisc of any of them. No. No I won’t.)

Girls Just Want to Have Fun—The Sarah Jessica Parker-Helen Hunt romp featuring the titular Cyndi Lauper hit. (If I heard the “Dancing in Heaven” lyric “Slow. Slow. Quick-quick slow.” again, I could very well die.)

Fast Forward—Continuing the dance theme, a group of dancers who try to “make it” in New York. (Lyric worm: “Forward! Forward! Moving fast-forward!”)

The Legend of Billie Jean—Okay, I’ll admit, this was a pretty badass movie. Helen and Christian Slater (who are not brother and sister play brother and sister) while Pat Benatar rocks on the theme song “Invincible.”

My Chauffeur—I am fairly certain NO ONE knows this movie about a young woman who (dare I say it?) becomes a limo driver. (::Gasp::)

Mannequin—“Roxie, you look foxy!” You know this Andrew McCarthy-Kim Cattrall crazily-plotted comedy also featuring Meshach Taylor as “Hollywood!”

Who’s That Girl—Madonna. Madonna is that girl. “What’s your husband’s name? Louden. And his last name? Clear.”

Can’t Buy Me Love—Patrick Dempsey in that old nerd-pays-popular girl-to-act-like-his-girlfriend shtick you know too well.

Teen Witch (*brother himself offered up this entry—which I can’t believe I forgot)—“Top That!” I think I’ve said it all.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead—I certainly did not mind him watching this Christina Applegate movie?&emdash;?“The dishes are done, man.”

The Cutting Edge—The hockey player-turned-ice skater movie with D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly (she’s also in another fave of his: With Honors).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer—Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry starred in the movie that would later spawn the TV series. Paul Reubens’ death scene always got me.

Hackers—By this point, I was already out of the house most of the time, but I do recall this Angelina Jolie-Jonny Lee Miller flick. As you should.

Freeze frame: My “little” brother went on to grow into quite a man whom I’m proud to share a name with and occasional meal. If these above had any lasting effect on making him who he is today, so be it. We all have our Weird Sciences. And… I may have mentioned his PhD, right? Okay.

Cue: “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Roll credits.