Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Collecting: Send me a letter, Send it by mail!

Having always loved old stuff, I was putting together weird "vintage" looks from the time I was in elementary school (maybe one day I will really embarrass myself and scan some photos of me wearing things that I thought were cool in junior high - but probably not).  I always took for granted the fact that I had an innate connection to old things and therefore became lazy in researching.  Plus, my interests are so varied that I never invested much time in developing a more-than-superficial knowledge of any one thing.  As Peggy Lee intoned, "I know a little bit about a lot of things."

"I Know A Little Bit About A Lot of Things" - Peggy Lee

I love finding something old that I have never seen before.  I also love getting real mail.  While thrifting the other day, we came across a stack of leather postcards, embossed with cool illustrations and witticisms dating from the early 20th Century - the perfect combination!

I've always loved big lady/little man couples -
The Golden Rule so beautifully interpreted.

Almost all of the postcards we found are dated 1907 and marked Hutchinson, Kansas.  While Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, 1907 was still Oklahoma! time.  These leather cards gave a real flavor of a state that was rooted in the frontier, but cosmopolitan enough to use styles and images reminiscent of Charles Dana Gibson.  As the song says, "Everything's up to date in Hutchinson, Kansas"  - or something.

LOVE this one.

In the swirling smoke is an image of his lady love.



Some would probably prefer an unmarked postcard.
I love the postmark dated 1907 - hand canceled!

In doing some research on Clara, I found a marriage record of a Clara Hoffman and Henry Albrecht from around the same time in San Francisco, CA.  If you notice, several of the above postcards are inscribed "Henry."  What do you think?  Knowing nothing at all about collectible stamps, I looked up the red-and-silvery image of George Washington.  I was excited to learn that in the last 100 years this Scott #319 two-cent stamp (issued in 1903) has increased in value over 1200% - meaning, that each stamp is now worth 25 cents!!!
Apparently, the thing to do was to turn these postal remembrances into pillows.
I wish that we had found one of these!

For me, the best part of finding something old is thinking bout the hands that held it before mine.  Corny though it may be, I wonder who Clara and Henry were.  I wonder what she wore as she met the mailman everyday waiting for the series of postcards that were sent to her addressed only with her name and the city in which she lived.  I imagine the attic where the long forgotten correspondence sat for over 100 years.  I get a bit disappointed that after such a long time, these historical artifacts of a family's genealogy ended up in a shoebox at The Salvation Army - heartened only by the fact that they are now in my care.  Then I start to wonder where all my crap is going to end up after I've kicked the bucket.  To again quote the inimitable Ms. Lee, "Is that all there is?"  Until then, I'm going to enjoy my postcards.

"Is That All There Is?" - Peggy Lee


Mr. Tiny

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We Dig Old Stuff

So my brother is a talented artist, graphic designer, screen printer, musician and world-class wise a**!  His screen print shop Tugboat Studios is the place for all of your shirt, poster and design needs.  We have been brainstorming/collaborating on some design ideas and this is what he came up with (I hate ending sentences with a preposition but sometimes it sounds pretentious to write properly).  A blog post about his shop will be forthcoming but until then here is what may be wacky tacky's first t-shirt!

For a full explanation on the techniques used to draw/paint the dinosaur, you would have to talk to him.  It is probably not a good idea to contact him, however, because he'll probably be mad that I posted this "rough draft" - he has acute perfectionist tendencies.  I LOVE the way it has the vibe of an old, roadside souvenir shirt.  Needless to say, one of our biggest influences growing up and continuing into adulthood is Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.  We were lucky to have grandparents who lived in Banning, CA which is just a short ride from Cabazon (where the dinosaurs live) so we were able to see them quite often.

Pee-Wee at the Cabazon Dinosaurs

I couldn't find the clip I wanted, so here is the trailer!


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

wacky tacky Tunes: Getting Sentimental

My friend Beth over at V is for Vintage (who, with her husband, makes one of the best dancing teams this side of creation) posted a clip of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Frank Sinatra playing "Blue Skies."  This great song got me to thinking about Tommy Dorsey.  My grandma always had a radio in the kitchen and when it wasn't blasting talk radio it was humming with the mellifluous melodies of music makers from the swing/big band era.  From my earliest days I was hooked!  As a kid, one of my very first tapes was a compilation of Tommy Dorsey tunes.  I wore the cassette out by rewinding and playing "Snootie Little Cutie" over and over and over again.

There is something magical and transporting about the combination of The Pied Pipers' harmonies, the vocals of Frank (who has never really been one of my favorites), the charm of Connie Haines, the horn section and the silly slang lyrics.  I wish I still had that tape!  Known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing," Tommy Dorsey had a reputation as anything but sweet and sentimental.  Even playing a whitewashed version of himself in The Fabulous Dorsey Brothers you could see that he had a red-hot temper.  There are legendary stories of him being a stern task-master with his band members, even charging fines for misbehavior.  Despite - or maybe because of - his reputation, he had a great sound and made his trombone sing and swing!  Hearing that beautiful noise, I couldn't help but think of another magical Dorsey moment - this one from the 1943 film DuBarry was a Lady

DuBarry was a Lady (1943)

I have made mention of this film before in a previous blog post, but only in reference to the amazing high-Hollywood style.  The film stars Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly and Red Skelton.  The first time I saw this movie I was blown away at just how beautiful Lucy was.  I think the iconic, zany "Lucy" character made me forget that she was actually a stunning woman.  


Overall, the film is pretty lame.  In its adaptation from stage to screen, much of the Cole Porter music was cut and the the plot serves mostly as a vehicle for the slapstick antics of Skelton.  Again, it is worth watching for the fashion and for the amazing musical sequence toward the beginning of the film that begins with The Oxford Boys (performing a mostly a cappella impersonation of several famous bandleaders/bands) and culminates in The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performing a medley of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Well, Git It!"

This footage is wacky tacky excellence!  Any time you can  make a realistic trumpet noise using just what God gave you (from the waist up), you are alright by me!  The impersonations are spot-on and the ability of the performers is incredible.  "Well, Git it?"


Mr. Tiny

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sew What?! wacky tacky Goes to the Prom!!

"Gee, thanks Skip!"

Prom season is upon us!  At this point in my life, I feel much closer to the type of "senior" prom where octogenarians are given a corsage/boutonniere and wheeled out to the multi-purpose room to listen to a Glenn Miller CD.  Despite the disturbing feeling that on the best of days I have the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old, I have recently reached the 30-year mark and realized that I have crossed the threshold into being "old."  Any rationally-thinking person over my age would scoff at the notion that thirty is old.  I quite agree but "old" has been thrust upon me by a younger generation who, out of sheer obstinacy in my opinion,  refuses to understand any of my pop culture references.  Moreover, when they are aware of said references, they insist on thinking of them as novelties of a simpler time.  Only a short time ago while driving, my teenaged sister's teenaged friend asked if I had ever heard of a particular "old" (there's that word again) band.  Who, I wondered.  Herman's Hermits?  No.  Buddy Holly and the Crickets?  Guess again.  The Paul Whiteman Orchestra?  Not even close.  My horror when he uttered the words Stone Temple Pilots was disguised only by the tissue-thin veil of my own uncomfortable laughter.  As I righted the steering wheel to keep the car from swerving off the road, I thought "Was it so long ago that 'Plush' was in regular rotation on the radio?"  Without my permission, I had become the old guy in the car (only magnified by my desperate search to find a station playing an STP song). Without my knowledge, I had jumped from youthful to elderly simply by my overwhelming desire to shout "Slow down you hot rodder!" at passing cars and "Do we all have to listen to that?" 

Again, aside from the occasional complaint about my ability to feel barometric changes in my knee, I don't feel old.  Nevertheless, I am reminded of my unavoidable march toward AARP qualification by these kids.  Mary, a high school senior who challenges my references to Who's the Boss? and Mr. Belvedere with a completely-genuine blank stare, needed a prom dress.   The very fact that my thoughts about her attending her senior prom included "Wow, it seems like she was just in kindergarten," really cement the fact that maybe I have become old.  Her dream dress - one of those frothy, draped-chiffon numbers that epitomize 1950's formals.  I appreciate dresses of that sort but I had to be perfectly honest with myself; draping and chiffon are well beyond my skill-level.  In contemplating design ideas for her dress, I decided that I would share a few photos of prom seasons past as well as my finished product. 

The Promenade
Fifties Formals

A charming couple
Apart from the fact that this photo makes me laugh, I really
like that white dinner jackets seemed to be the order of the day.
Wishing I was there.
I shouldn't say this, but is there anything better than the solo Prom photo?
Where are they now?
This appears to be an ad more than
a candid photo but it sure looks good.

I'm sure at some point in history, home-sewing was a far more economical option than purchasing ready-to-wear garments.  Now, I suppose, the value in home sewing is determined by custom fit and unique style.  Even though I am overwhelmed by a mountain range (yes it has gotten that bad) of material, thread and notions, it still seems that no matter what project I undertake,  I still spend lots of money on finding exactly what I need to finish.  This prom dress was no exception.  I already owned the lace but due to my forgetful nature, it took at least three expensive trips to the fabric store to get everything I needed.  Overall, I like the way this wacky tacky dress turned out.  It has the distinctive flavor of a 50's prom dress and suits Mary to a tee!

Mary and Chris look lovely surrounded by a field of yellow wild flowers.
Our talented sister-in-law made Mary's wrist corsage and Chris' boutonniere
and did Mary's make-up.

Gettin' the party started early!!
Mary wore her vintage crinoline.
I really like this one.

The under dress was made of ice-blue taffeta with boning in the bodice and the overdress was made of dusty-blue lace.  The gathered, two-tiered skirt was supported by Mary's vintage crinoline and horsehair trim.  I made a corsage of satin ribbon, a lace remnant and miniature blue roses.  The shawl was of the same lace and I cut away the excess material around the flowers to create a "fringed" edge.  Mary wore a combination of heirloom/costume and contemporary jewelry.  Chris wore a vintage 1950's suit and tie.

The backside of Prom.
All I know is that my prom photos didn't look this good!!  All of the modern prom photos are courtesy of super-talented photographer Jessie Stopnik at - be sure to check out her blog and contact her for all of your professional photography needs.


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kitsch-en Kounter: Neapolitan Treats

I love looking through old magazines.  I was fortunate enough to inherit some of my great-grandmother's collection of magazines including many McCall's and Collier's from the late forties and early fifties.  I treasure these veritable time capsules that still bear her name and address so much that they have gone with me wherever I have moved.  Endless inspiration is to be found by simply thumbing through the dog-eared pages and with every turn of the page I have taken mental notes on the fashion, the interiors and even the food!  Sometimes the recipes culled from the pages of these publications seem like a menu designed for prisoners of war, kidnappers, and especially-disruptive, early-morning landscapers.  I can see the artistry and the ingenuity behind the recipes.  I can see the endless possibilities for pimento olives.  I can see these recipes as part of the wacky tacky landscape and therefore I wanted to try my hand at making something that could be worthy of a home on the pages of these magazines.

Growing up, my dad's favorite ice cream flavor was neapolitan.  He always loved mixing flavors and the classic chocolate, vanilla, strawberry combination that neapolitan offered him was an ice cream dream come true.  When he would buy it for the family, however, the carton would invariably end up as a stripe of vanilla surrounded by two voids where the chocolate and strawberry once resided.  My brother still considers vanilla to be "plain."  Inspired by the recipes of vintage magazines and my dad's favorite flavor  story I decided to create neapolitan "marshmallow rice squares."  I would say Rice Krispie Treats, but in the interest of full disclosure, I not only used generic marshmallows, I used store-brand
"Crispie Rice Cereal" - both regular and cocoa-flavored.  I decided that the obvious finishing touch was a dunk in chocolate.

Clearly, I am no food stylist.  The way a food looks in my imagination doesn't always translate directly to the finished product.  Furthermore, the way that the photos look in my head versus the way the photos turn out is very telling about my photography skills as well.  Nevertheless, the finished product was tasty and left room for fine-tuning in the next batch.  Although I'm not sure that I would have pleased the editors of Collier's.

My next food challenge is to take a real recipe from a vintage magazine and see if my family will actually eat it!  Bon appetit!


Mr. Tiny

Monday, April 11, 2011

Annette Addendum!!!

Due to the overwhelming response that my last post about Annette Funicello garnered, I knew you all would be waiting with baited breath for additional photos.  This one comes with a little story by way of my friend, renowned artist, philosopher and sexiest thing under a top hat, Suzy Splab.  Suzy happens to work for the Walt Disney Company and has pretty much unlimited access to the archives (I'm pretty sure she puts her Hungry-Man lunches in the same freezer where they keep Walt).  While excavating in the archives one day, she dug up this photo of Annette surrounded by her menagerie of "babies."  I find that the peignoir/stuffed animal combo sends a slightly-disturbing message.  Maybe that is why this one was buried deep in the archives under the outtakes from The Mickey Mouse Club (the one where Roy does his infamous fan dance) and behind the photos of Hayley Mills in black face.

Photo courtesy of Suzy and the Disney archives.

Leave it to Uncle Walt to put the "fun" in Funicello!


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, April 7, 2011

wacky tacky icons: Dance Annette!

I just finished watching The Boys, the documentary about the Sherman Brothers.  I've always known who they were and loved many of their songs but WOW, these guys were incredible.  The exact genesis of their career at the Disney Studios was a bit of mystery to me; it turns out they got their start writing a couple of novelty tunes for Annette Funicello before Walt hired them as full-time composers/lyricists.   I knew that they were the genius behind many of Annette's successful records (I have her complete recordings) but I was under the mistaken notion that "Tall Paul" was specifically about Annette's relationship with Paul Anka.

Anyhow, the reason that I bring any of this up is because I had been toying with the idea of a blog about Annette and, having just watched a film in which Annette played such an integral part, the timing just seemed right.

I have always loved Annette.  Our family was raised on three things: live-action Disney films, the beach movies from American International Pictures and Skippy Peanut Butter.  Moreover, Back to the Beach (the 80's send-up of said beach movies) was a staple in our regularly scheduled programming.  From this movie we partook not only of the entertainment value but also of the depths of its wisdom.  We increased our capacity for understanding the differences and, more importantly, the similarities that unify us as a human race; "Not many people can cha-cha-cha, not everybody can do the twist, but everybody can do the ska" - a valuable life lesson indeed!

Annette + Aunt Becky + Fishbone = riveting entertainment

As interested as I am to find the man who put the "bop" in the "bop-shoo-bop," I am even more interested to find the genius who decided to put the Italian in the ocean!

There is just no denying that heritage!

The combination of Annette's Italian lineage, her bouffant hair-do and the roar of the crashing waves is really what gives Annette her wacky tacky street cred.  Her films further cement her status as an icon of wacky tacky with every viewing.  Her music is nothing to be overlooked either; "Rock-a-Polka," "Rock-a-Charleston," "Rock-a-Cha" - is there anything this girl couldn't rock-a???

Pajama Party (1964) 

Pajama Party is definitely one of my favorites - Annette, Tommy Kirk, Buster, Keaton, Elsa Lanchester, Candy Johnson, Martians, Indians, pajama/pool parties, and "Stuffed Animal" - (one of the most unintentionally-hilarious/perverse songs in the Annette Funicello songbook!!!!!)

Unfortunately, this is the best clip that youtube has to offer but you get the idea.

The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964)
Another of my favorites is The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.   The opening credits are awesome! 

Its sequel, The Monkey's Uncle (1965), afforded The Beach Boys the unprecedented opportunity to sing the movie's theme song with Annette.

So much is made of the Ginger vs. Mary Ann debate but I find the more interesting choice to be the one between Annette and Deborah Walley.  Their differences appear to be akin to those of the stranded castaways - the sexy redhead versus the more wholesome brunette.  They shared so many similarities, however, from their rise at Disney to stardom at AIP that I find the choice to be much more telling.  So instead of going on and on about Annette's career and the sadness of her protracted battle with MS, I will let you decide for yourselves.  Who do you go for - Annette or Deborah?

They were both the sweetheart, girl-next-door.

They both had great 60's hair.

They were both killer, beach babes worthy of Bond Girl status!

So, who is it going to be?  I would say that you have to choose, but thankfully, you don't.  They are both amazing!  Overall, Anette may eke out a victory over Deborah only because of the rich musical legacy and the merchandising!


Mr. Tiny