Throwback Thursday: the TootsieToy plastic battleship!

This ought to be an obscure one — what you see below is a TootstieToy plastic battleship that was a favorite toy of mine during my very early childhood in the 1970’s.  I can find little reliable information about it online … one eBay ad, for example, incorrectly lists it as an 80’s toy.  Adding to the confusion is that TootsieToy seems to have been known for making primarily diecast metal products, including lots of ships, and they were doing so for half a century — between the 1930’s and the 1990’s.

Believe it or not, I think I actually have fuzzy (but colorful) memories of my older sister buying this for me at a toy store in Queens when I was a toddler, maybe in … 1976?  1977?  It can’t have been later than that, because my family moved to Long Island before the close of 1977.

Dear Lord, was this thing was a treasure to me.  I figure it was hardly longer than a foot, but it seemed pretty big to small hands.  I’ve still got it somewhere, I think.  Part of the bow is broken off.  When I was very young, I held the misconception that everything hollow needed to be a bank, and at one point I tried to put nickels inside of it.

It doesn’t matter much.  Even if this toy is in pretty good condition, it only fetches about $17 on eBay — more proof that not everything old is also valuable.



Throwback Thursday: Mego Superman (1972 – 1979)

I actually had a couple of these eight-inch Mego Corporation Superman dolls when I was a very young child — along with more than one Mego Batman.  I’m guessing they were repeat gifts.  I sure loved them.

Those boots you see were easily lost.  I still remember them floating around at the bottom of my childhood toybox.

What’s interesting is that these relatively crude toys were still being released even after the more modern action figures were hitting the scene.  (Kenner, for example, was releasing the first standard-size Star Wars figures in 1978.)




Throwback Thursday: Peter Benchley’s “The Deep” and “The Island”

I mentioned these late-1970’s seafaring novels last week — they could be considered the “other” Peter Benchley classics.  Neither “The Deep” nor “The Island” had nearly the broad-based cultural impact of “Jaws,” of course.  But they were still pretty damned good.

I got my hands on the paperbacks in the 1980’s, after my Dad left them lying around the house.  (It’s funny how much of my reading material I inherited from my father or older brother during my formative years.  I wonder how many kids grew up like that and were thus influenced.)  Both books leaned toward being horror-thrillers, as “Jaws” did.

I saw the the 1980 film adaptation of “The Island” on broadcast television when I was in early gradeschool, and it freaked me the hell out.  It’s actually a pretty bizarre tale about a colony of throwbacks who murder modern boatgoers in the manner of 18th Century pirates.  (Check out the trailer below.)  It stars none other than Michael Caine, and also an Australian actress Angela Punch MacGregor.  (If that isn’t a badass Australian name for a lady, I don’t know what is.)

I read the original book when I was older — in some ways, it was even freakier.  There were some weird sexual undercurrents and potty humor that weren’t even necessary for the plot; Benchley was a little more out there than you might gather from the more traditional thriller that “Jaws” was.

“The Deep” was a scuba diving thriller; the book and the 1977 movie filled my adolescent head with ambitions of becoming a professional treasure-hunter.  I remember devoting a lot of thought around age 13 or so to trying to figure out if that was a realistic career aspiration.  (I supposed it all depended on what I found.)  There is a moray eel in the movie, and it is unpleasant.  It prompted me to adopt the neurotic habit of bringing a knife along on the summer snorkeling expeditions behind my friend Brian’s house.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia informs me that Benchley returned to writing books in the late 1980’s; his last two novels in the early 1990’s sound pretty damn cool.  They’re both seafaring monster stories — “The Beast” and “White Shark.”  The latter even selects its victims from my native Long Island, New York.  Maybe I’ll pick those up this summer.





Throwback Thursday: The “Platoon” soundtrack (1987).

This will probably strike many as a strange summer memory, but I listened endlessly to the “Platoon” soundtrack during the summer of 1987.  (The movie was released at the end of ’86; the tape arrived in stores later that winter.)  I bought it the following summer, just before my sophomore year at Longwood High School, and it served as the soundtrack for the “diving” expeditions at my friend Brian’s house.

Brian lived on an immense lake.  Our “diving” was really just two dorks snorkeling (dorkeling?), while one of them pretended to be various heroes from Peter Benchley novels.  (I’d inherited a few from my Dad.  Benchley wrote all sorts of sea-based horror-thrillers, people, not just “Jaws.”)

I swear that some of my happiest summer memories will always be snorkeling that lake.  It was an landscape as alien as I imagined the moon might have been — fantastic, airless, unknowable, and even apprehension-inducing.  Brian and his kid brother Brad had gravely intoned to me their accounts of the black eels they’d encountered underwater; the impression they made on me was enough to make me startled at the sight of any vague, longish shape that I spotted beneath the surface.  (We all still loved seeing fish, though.  I’ll never forget that curious sunfish who approached my face so closely that it looked like he was about to kiss my mask.)

Anyway, the “Platoon” soundtrack was known to play while we prepared for one of our forays, or when we were taking a break in Brian’s basement.  (Believe it or not, snorkeling can be slightly vigorous exercise if you do it long enough — especially if you’re wearing flippers.)  I’d brought it along on cassette, of course, as DVD’s weren’t a thing yet.  And sometimes we’d listen to it and other tapes when we were brainstorming our plans to appropriate some radio-controlled planes.

Brian and I absolutely fetishized RC planes for a while … neither one of us owned one, but we wanted to — very badly.  Fueling our greed for the pricey toys were a couple of catalogs Brian had ordered from a hobby company.  (The Internet wasn’t a thing yet.)  We hatched various plans to raise funds for their purchase — I think mowing lawns was the go-to option back in the day for kids who weren’t old enough to drive.  I occurs to me as I write this now that a smarter or more ambitious pair of high school boys would probably have focused on earning money for actual cars, rather than their radio-controlled equivalent — driving age was only a couple of years away.  Brian had a thing about RC boats, too — a predilection that I thought was entirely lame.  But, then again, I was the one without a lake in his backyard.

I’d bought the “Platoon” tape at Smithhaven Mall because of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings;” I was a nerdy enough kid to do that.  (That’s the instrumental score that most people think of as the “Platoon movie music.”)  But I quickly came to love the “Songs From The Era” selections on the rest of the tape — it was really my first sustained exposure to the music of the 1960’s.

The Doors’ “Hello, I Love you” was my instant favorite; Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” was another favorite.  (I have a habit of quoting its lyrics to this day.)  I still love every song on the album, really, with one exception.  I really liked Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” when I was in high school, but my affection for it has definitely faded.  Today it’s a slightly annoying earworm, and I might have to play some Doors right now to get rid of it.




Throwback Thursday: “Batman” (1966 – 1968)

Of course.

Rest easy, Adam West.

No, I wasn’t alive in the 1960’s, but I loved the show’s reruns as a tot in the 70’s — even before I was old enough to read the “CRASHes,” “WHAMs” and “BAMs.”  I also had (and loved) those crudely made dolls made by Mego.  (I’m starting to think that company made every toy before the 1980’s finally arrived.)



Throwback Thursday: I WAS A TEENAGE NINJA.

As an adult, I am absolutely not prone to fads.  (I bought that fidget spinner last week IRONICALLY, people.)  But, as an adolescent, I was truly swept up in the 1980’s ninja craze.

I mentioned “Ninja” magazine here not too long ago — this was precisely the sort of periodical that fueled the misguided ambitions of tweens and young teenage boys everywhere.  (We also had movies like “Enter The Ninja,” “Revenge of the Ninja” and the “American Ninja” series.  If you’re a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, and you’ve seen the show skewer Lee Van Cleef’s “The Master” TV movie, that was an unfortunate product of the 1980’s ninja obsession.)

“Ninja” magazine was published by Condor Books between 1983 and 1995.  I had a bunch of issues, including all those shown below, if memory serves.  They were fun.  Those covers you see doubled as pullout posters at the middle of each magazine.  There were a lot of martial arts magazines like this.  (I seem to remember a rival entitled “Ninjamania,” but Google isn’t much help with that.)

It must have been tough for the writers here to generate ideas.  (They were writing a periodical magazine about what was basically supposed to be “an ancient art form.”)  One of the go-to story ideas was to portray different kinds of historically dubious theme-ninjas.  Hence the “Earth Ninja” and the “Fire Ninja” headlines you see on the covers below.  There was even a modern “Rainbow Ninja” — some real, enterprising martial artist had emblazoned his traditional black outfit with rainbows across his chest.   Even an impressionable kid liked me knew that was pretty dopey.  It looked like something you would see today in a pride parade, and I can’t imagine it helped the ninja “blend into the shadows.”

I … wanted to become a ninja, when I was 12 or so.  I figured I would have to eventually travel to Japan to do it.  In the meantime, I studied my magazines, and constructed what weapons I could — including a pretty nifty crossbow (which I’m pretty sure historical ninja never used) and some surprisingly workable nun-chucks.  (My “nunchaku” were crafted by two sawed-off lengths of broomstick, connected by a short chain.)  My mother had forbidden me to purchase any of the ninja knives (“tanto”) or throwing stars (“shuriken”) from the ads at the back of every magazine, so I had to improvise.  She did allow me to have a ninja mask, though.

Hey — I wasn’t the only one doing this.  I had a lot of company — as evidenced by the demand for these products. The fellow members of my “ninja clan,” “The Nightcrawlers,” lived right on my suburban street.  And the fad lasted a lot longer than parachute pants or hacky sacks, people.  It actually lasted longer than Atari.  And it arguably helped get kids reading or (God forbid) outside exercising.

Anyway, not all of “Ninja” magazine’s content was pure cheese.  I actually remember reading a quite decent short story in one issue.  It was called “The Sparrow that Feeds on Hawks.”  It featured, perhaps predictably, a young boy who became a ninja in order to defeat a cruel group of adult samurai.  But it was surprisingly thoughtful and well constructed for a what was essentially the 80’s equivalent of the 1950’s pulp magazines.   If I ever find it on the Internet, I’ll link to it here.






Throwback Thursday: the “WKRP in Cincinnati” theme song!

I didn’t watch “WKRP in Cincinnati” (1978 – 1982) when I was a kid; it was a show for adults.  I loved the theme song just as much as anyone else, though.

This was just meant as a catchy tune for the show’s opener — but it was such a cool and popular soft-rock number (performed by Steve Carlisle), that a full-length version was released as a singe in 1979.  It reached number 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1982.