Monday, December 31, 2012

Mego to Kiddie World

I was six years old in 1974, just old enough to appreciate the world of Mego in their brief but prolific glory as purveyors of ACTION FIGURES (aka dolls for boys). That is me below with Batman (emblem already missing) and Batmobile, Spock, and the "Astronaut" figure from Planet of the Apes.

And that is me in July 1975 with the PAPER CROWN, opening presents. On the lawn to my right, it looks like the Mego Cheron and McCoy on the cards, not yet opened.

I remember a "wall" of Megos hanging on the racks at Kiddie World on Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose (including all the WGSH).

The ones I had did get used. They got worn, dirty, wet, broken. I pulled their heads off. I took them apart to see how they were put together. I threw them in traffic. I dropped cinder blocks on them from the treehouse. I melted them and replaced appendages with hooks made from paper clips. These toys were meant to be played with, weren't they?  These were just mass produced plastic things, priced at $2.99 and ready for a kid to rip the package apart and throw around.

Sometime in the mid-80s, I was in a mall toy store and there were maybe a dozen of these in a corner rack still priced at a few dollars each. I was surprised to see them mixed in with the new merchandise, since I knew they were at least a decade old. But there they were. The thought occurred to me that maybe I should buy them and store them away.

Of course I didn't buy them. I thought if I saw them once I would see them again elsewhere. And that never happened. So now I'm forced to re-acquire these the hard way. And why am I doing it? Hell if I know!

Some handy tips for collecting Megos of the Star Trek variety:

1) Reproductions suck, and anyone who sells reproductions should have to get fucked by Adam Sandler. On eBay, filter out any results with "EMCE" or "Diamond Select" or "Mego Style". Sometimes sellers will hide reproduction disclaimers in the "fine print" of their descriptions. ("100% all original, genuine Mego! Except for the boots. Guaranteed!")

2) The first figures to be released were Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and the Klingon. The wrist and knee joints had metal rivets, and the card they came on showed only the five faces of those first figures. These are "Type 1" or "Five Face" figures. Uhura was added subsequently, and the cards then showed all six faces, and the bodies became "Type 2", which had less visible plastic joints.

Type 1 joints with metal rivets

Type 2 joints, all plastic

3) The 2nd series Aliens (Gorn, Keeper, Neptunian, Cheron) come in two possible card types, depending on whether the 3rd series Aliens (Romulan, Andorian, Talosian, Mugato) had been released yet or not. The back of the card may or may not show the 3rd series figures, but the value (of a 2nd series Alien) seems to be the same regardless. The actual 3rd series Alien figures are categorically more valuable than the 2nd (due to scarcity because of some factory or warehouse fire back in the day, where many were destroyed before reaching stores). The Romulan is the most valuable, and possibly the coolest, figure. I don't have ANY of the 3rd series Aliens, but if you want to send me one as a gift of thanks for this amazing blog, I will accept it.

Aliens series 2 card back

Aliens series 3 card back (Talosian has no name)

4) The foil starfleet emblem was apparently originally glued on with a microscopic drop of completely ineffective glue. Look closely at the emblem, and if it's grey instead of silver, the foil has fallen off.

5) Blue shirt figures (Spock and McCoy) seem to be prone to spontaneous discoloration around the mid-section. If you're looking at a "mint on card" blue shirt figure on eBay, and the photo isn't detailed enough to clearly see if this has happened, don't buy it.

Blue shirt faded to green at mid-section

6) If some guy wants you to come into his van to get candy and Star Trek Megos, don't do it. Just run away.

7) Cheron figures that still look clean are hard to come by. Many of them succumbed to "Cheron Rot" over the years, in which the ink from the Cheron body does a dirty dance with the dyes in the clothing and he ends up basically Pig Farmer Cheron. Seems like about half the Cherons got this, so if you're shopping for one and can't find a clean one, just wait it out. One will eventually turn up.

A clean Cheron is a happy Cheron

8) The blue phasers, communicators, and tricorders will often have faded to a sad greenish color. This is common and unavoidable. Don't worry about it. If you get one with unfaded equipment, throw yourself a tea party.

9) When buying any figure still in the card/bubble, look closely at the feet. If one of the feet appears to be pointing the wrong way, the leg has probably come off and is just hanging there. Sellers will frequently fail to mention a detached leg and then blame you for not spotting it in the photo.

10) If the figure is white and has boobs, and isn't wearing a Star Trek outfit, it's probably a Barbie.

I'm 44 and I like toys. Fuck you.

Mego - Not A Doll

People think I am lying when I tell them that one of my main toys as a child was dirt. It's true. My sister and I created beautiful pottery pieces with the soil in our backyard only to have them break when we tried to bring them inside. We also played with bugs.

David's childhood was the opposite. He apparently had every toy manufactured during the 1970s, including Mego Star Trek action figures, which could physically be transported room to room. His figures went on adventures. The cards and bubbles they were purchased in discarded. Clothing torn. Accessories misplaced. The ones remaining, if he could find them, ruined.

So now he collects.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lunch Boxes

September 1975, at River Glen Elementary School in San Jose. Start of the school year, and I'm in the second grade. My lunch box is Goober & The Ghost Chasers/Inch High Private Eye. One side of the lunch box was about a Scooby Doo imitation (teenagers, mystery-solving hijinks, wacky dog), and the other side was who knows what the fuck. I have no memory at all of Inch High Private Eye, other than it decorated one side of my lunch box. This is the only "hybrid" lunch box that I know of, in the history of lunch boxes.

So I'm there with the rest of the 7-year-olds, and we're checking each other out. And I don't remember who had it, but SOMEBODY had the LAND OF THE LOST lunch box. No way! I did not know there was a lunch box for that! My lunch box features a dog that looks stoned and wears a ski cap! And that's the GOOD side of the lunch box! The other kid's lunch box has a TYRANNOSAURUS REX on it!

Starting the following year, I went to K-Mart and got to choose my OWN lunch box. I chose the Six Million Dollar Man. But I still had to go the entire 2nd grade year with Goober & The Ghost Chasers/Inch High Private Eye.

Along with paste, crayons, lined paper, and number 2 pencils, your lunch box was a part of daily school life. You got to meditate daily on the images it featured, as you carried it to and from school and unlatched the lid at lunchtime. My lunch was a sandwich, either American cheese or peanut butter and jelly, possibly potato chips, a hostess snack cake (a Ho-Ho, mini-donuts, or a Chocodile), and a drink in the thermos - probably Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch. Mind you, this was after a breakfast of Fruity Pebbles, Cap'N Crunch, or Cookie Crisp

My last lunch box was Star Wars. Wherever I set it down, it was always with the "ships shooting each other" side facing out. I had decided right away that was cool side, as we did with every lunch box.

In sixth grade, I switched to the brown paper sack. Everyone did. Fifth grade was the official cutoff for lunch boxes. I didn't know this until I got to the fifth grade, and saw that ALL the sixth graders had paper sacks instead of lunch boxes. I wasn't able to gain this insight earlier because the "upper grade" area of the school was unofficially off limits to the "lower graders". There was no rule or barrier or gate, but it was just understood. For one, you'd be walking among giants, for another, it was said you could end up with your face in the tanbark.

Which lunch boxes did you have?

Hating on Hipsters

I've been told I should write a blog. "You should write a blog!"

Here's your damn blog, dammit.

So I collect stuff, and I don't know why. Toys, games, records, music stuff, postcards, books, magazines, radios, artwork, furniture. Acquire it, admire it, store it away. And then when I die, all this stuff will still be here. Some fucking hipster will be stroking his beard at the estate sale, wondering if having my suitcase record player will convince the girl that he's been after for like 6 years that he's cool enough to sleep with, even though she says they are just friends and frankly wouldn't mind if he fucked off and died. But he'll take what he sees as a worthy gamble, and move his ridiculous giant keychain out of the way to get to his wallet and fish out the $95 for the record player that I had to DRIVE 150 MILES AND PAY $300 TO ACQUIRE. WHAT THE FUCK? WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS FUCKING ESTATE SALE?

If she did sleep with him, I would have to rise from the dead and punch them both IN THE FACE. I'd be like, "Seriously? You slept with his weaselly ass because you were charmed by my record player?" Cause it sure wasn't his "band" that won her over. He even bores himself with his music.

He doesn't have a chance with the girl anyway, because what he doesn't realize is that having old stuff DOESN'T MAKE YOU HOT. If you ALREADY are hot, having CERTAIN vintage items can make you more hot. Like records, or books. But not action figures or cars. No. Having vintage things that were made for kids (like I have a LOT of) makes you a loser, even if you are hot. It subtracts from your hotness. On the other hand, having vintage things that make you seem historically astute, intellectually curious, or able to groove on sounds by dead people, that multiplies your hotness.

Of course if you're already hot, you could have anything strewn about your apartment/house. And if your guest wants to get laid by you, expect compliments to ensue. "You collect Hummels! And Thomas Kinkade prints! Oh my God, that's so cool! How did you get into collecting those? Tell me more! While I sit next to you!"

Or if your guest doesn't consider you hot, expect the opposite. "You have a collection of the first guitars ever made by Gibson? Recently unearthed never-heard original tapes by the Beatles? A missing piece from the Rosetta Stone? King Arthur's actual sword? Huh. Well, I gotta get to the gym before it gets too late. See ya!" People suck.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bullet Planters

Baby Bullet

Turquoise Bullet Planter

Hallway Planter

I got a thing for bullet planters. Growing up in suburbia green stuff lived in backyards. Many summer vacations were spent weeding and pruning. No need for professional help with us kids around.

Despite my mother's green thumb only cut flowers were allowed indoors. Even if my mother received a plant as a gift, it always found a home outside. We had windows after all.

Once I moved to the big city things changed. My rent controlled apartment looks upon my neighbor's living room. My view is less exciting than Rear Window. Most nights I only make out two heads facing the television. They do, however,  have a nice tall tree that I admire when the light is right.

I have managed to bend the rules by scattering greenery throughout our place.

Deck Planters

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Life Without Tupperware

I would never had survived childhood without Tupperware. My life would be so different than it is today. Growing up in reform school with all the other horrid children who chipped their glass sippy cups. Taking mandatory etiquette classes to reintegrate back into society. Eventually graduating from the island of misfit toys.
Thank you Tupperware for helping me have a somewhat normal childhood.

My Love For Franciscan

Combing flea markets was a family pastime. It was a chance for my parents to walk down memory lane with us kids.

The Starburst pattern of Franciscan pottery always was always a topic for discussion. When my mother's family relocated from NYC to Hollywood in the 50s my grandmother chose this style of dishes to "modernize" their kitchen. Unfortunately my grandmother died young so no one can recall what happened to these modern gems. They were likely sold at a garage sale as most family heirlooms.

When the recession was at its peak, David discovered a Craiglist ad listing 60 pieces of Starburst for sale. We drove north to pick them up from a man who had collected this pattern most of his adult life. He seemed sad to see them go. His wife seemed ecstatic.  I suspect she was excited to have more room for her Ikea dishes.

I have supplemented his collection over the years - adding the Oasis pattern to the mix. As the price of these pieces increase I am not able to buy them as freely as I once used too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ice Ice Baby

Buyer beware. At our last party I thought I would be the coolest hostess ever if I used one of my Dazey ice crushers to show off my bartending skills. That concept didn't last long after I realized that one required Superman strength to work it. You'd think the rocket shape design would have given me the hint. So with tail between my legs I reverted back to the fail proof way of crushing ice. The way my mom taught me long ago. The hammer. Works every time.

Cure For The Mid Life Crisis

David announced tonight that his rekindled interest obsession in Matchbox is his way of avoiding the inevitable. Cheaper than buying a convertible, David's mission is to collect every Matchbox and Hot Wheels he owned as a child as a remedy for his mid life crisis. And with the magic of the internet, he is now closer to fulfilling this dream.

Today arrived a box set consisting of pristine cars from the late 60s/early 70s. From the Lamborghini Countach to the Beach Buggy I was surprised to learn that these colorful toys were manufactured in England by Lesney Products. (Ok, my sheltered childhood was filled with dolls by Mattel so this was new to me.) Of the twenty four cars inside his new carry case only two matched the ones lost long ago.

So his "crisis" continues....

Besides, he has already warned me that his next crisis will be to collect the original set of Star Trek action figures and Enterprise playset. Apparently, he is saving the biggest challenge for last.

Ahhhh, boys will be boys.


A few years back if Alex Trebek asked me what a Blaupunkt was I would have stared blankly at the camera.

It all started with a traffic jam due to the Folsom Street festival in San Francisco. To avoid the messy backup in SOMA we aborted our trip to our favorite non mid-century furniture store, McCarney's, and headed to The Other Shop on Divisadero. The moment we walked in, we independently gravitated towards this gem from the past - a Blaupunkt Arkansas model 4635. I have seen other radio consoles before but this one seemed to be the cream of the crop. Immediately we confessed that this was the perfect antique that represented a blend of our styles. For David it had a vintage AM/FM radio while for me another location to store my ever expanding barware collection. At one time there was a small turntable inside that appears to have been kidnapped within the last 50+ years. But otherwise, the piece is in mint condition.  If it fit in our SUV then it was going to be ours.

You guessed correct. It fit.

Before There Were iPods...

Living with a record collector I was not surprised when David starting coming home with vintage record cases.

Meant to carry one's 45s and LPs from party to party, this "iPod" from the past provided organization in a stylish and hip way. Most came with dividers to help its owner find their favorite record easily.

Honestly, I never had seen one until David began purchasing them on eBay and at flea markets. Now that I am familiar I thought it would be fun to show off his ever growing collection in the blog.

With patterns ranging from psychedelic to plain ol' adorable I am impressed that these cardboard carriers survived the test of time.

Lotus, Anyone?

David collects things from his childhood. I collect things I have fallen in love with as an adult. The Cathrineholm lotus enamel is one example. I wish I could claim my Scandinavian heritage as the reason why I'm drawn to them. But my Swedish mother filled her kitchen with the American craze - Tupperware. Parties and all. I suspect my mom would assume I was referring to a person and not a product if I said the name.

My kitchen has grown brighter since I started to collect Cathrineholm. The colorful pattern helps, but surrounding yourself with things you love is the truth of the matter.

Below is a groovy postcard David found at a vintage paper fair. If only they were still that cheap.