Throwback Thursday: Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu” (1980)

No, I was never a fan of Olivia Newton John, nor am I old enough to recall her stardom in any great detail.  I need to mention “Xanadu” at least once here at this blog, however, as it is forever linked in my mind with the summer of 1980.

This song was played endlessly at the beach by sunbathing teenage girls.  They mostly went unnoticed by me, as this was the summer before I entered the third grade, and I hadn’t developed much interest in girls just yet.  But thinking of this song immediately returns me to the beach again as a little boy.  (My parents sent me there with my siblings a lot, something for which retrospect has taught me to feel thankful.)

I have a lot of memories of going to the beach in the early 80’s — burning sand, screaming for the ice cream man, and sidestepping endless arrays of discarded bottlecaps in the gravel parking lot.  (The local teenagers must have done a hell of a lot of drinking there; upturned bottlecaps hurt when you stepped on them.)  This was also the summer that my friend Brian’s little brother, Brad, erroneously told me that Han Solo died in “The Empire Strikes Back.”  (There were no “Episode” prefixes when the first Star Wars films came out.)

There was another hit by John that can transport me back the early 80’s.  That would be “Physical,” which was played and sang ubiquitously in 1981 by the girls in my fourth grade class.  (I still remember Linda, who lived on the next street, talking about John in awed tones: “A looooot of people think she is beautiful.”)

But I’d prefer not to think of that song, if I can help it.  While “Xanadu” is arguably still fun and catchy, “Physical” is best left forgotten.



Check out the August 2016 Issue of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine.

Hey, gang — the August 2016 Issue of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine was released today.  Check out my friend Dennis Villelmi’s “Spending and Saving” on Page 4; it’s my favorite poem that he’s authored.

A lighthearted short summer poem of mine, “Bumblebee,” also appears in the issue on Page 8.

You can order a softcover copy of the August Issue for just over $3 right here:

Or, you can download a free electronic copy of the magazine in PDF format right here:



Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine Issue 17 - August 2016

A review of “Special Bulletin” (1983), with link

There’s a pretty damn interesting chestnut from from 80’s-era nuclear nightmare films available on Youtube — 1983’s “Special Bulletin.”  (The link is below.)  I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it.  I think most 80’s kids remember ABC’s “The Day After.”  That infamous television movie was a cultural touchstone that scared a generation of kids.  “Special Bulletin” was produced by NBC the same year, actually preceding “The Day After” by nine months.  Instead of a world-ending war with Russia, the feature-length special imagined a single incident of nuclear terrorism in Charleston, South Carolina.  (I myself had no idea that Charleston was the strategic military nexus that the movie explains it to be.)

“Special Bulletin” was filmed as a “War of the Worlds”-type narrative, consisting exclusively of faux news coverage, and it’s pretty damned good.  (It won a handful of Emmys.)  It’s just as frightening today — or maybe more so, given the increased threat of precisely this kind of terrorism from stateless groups.

The acting is mostly good, the directing successfully captures the feel of live news coverage, and the absence of a musical score further lends the movie a sense of realism.  The story has a few surprises for us, too — the plot setup is creative and interesting, and much more thought went in the the teleplay than I would have expected.  The film asks some difficult questions about the role of the media in affecting the outcome of high-profile crimes like the one depicted.  (Would such questions be more or less relevant in the age of camera-phones, uploaded ISIS executions and Facebook Live?  I’m not sure.)

I was also quite impressed with some of “Special Bulletin’s” thriller elements.  (I’d say more, but I will avoid spoilers for anyone who wants to watch it below.)

One thing that detracts from the format’s realism is the fact that some of this movie’s actors are easily recognizable from other roles in the 80’s (although it’s fun spotting them as an 80’s movie fan).

Most viewers my age, for example, will recognize Ed Flanders and Lane Smith.  The utterly sexy female reporter who arrives on location at Charleston Harbor is Roxanne Hart, who later played Brenda in “Highlander” (1986).  (She’s still quite beautiful, guys, and she’s still making movies.)  Most jarring of all, however, is a prominent role played by David Clennon, who any fan of horror-science fiction will recognize as Palmer from John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”  This is still fun, though — he has that same disarrayed hair.  Was it his trademark back in the day?