For those who missed it, Wizards and Warriors was the proto-Xena. It was fun, exciting and silly, and I loved it. I loved it because I loved everything swords and sorcery, because it was great to see Jeff Conaway filling a nice guy role after rising to fame by playing arrogant jerks like Kenickie and Bobby Reager, and because my sense of humor was, and still is, distinctly Muppetarian.
It ran for eight episodes in 1983, then was uncerimoniously cancelled and forgotten by all but a tiny handful of fans.
Why did it flop? Well, one reason is that most people weren't into the fantasy genre back then, it wasn't cool to be a geek. And the people who were into the fantasy genre took it very, very, seriously. Notice that movies such as Excalibur, Conan the Barbarian and Dragonslayer, along with all their myriad low-budget cousins, were played completely and totally straight. No mugging, no camp, at least not intentionally. That was what made Wizards and Warriors so much fun; they knew it was ridiculous, but the deadpan acting was what made it hilarious.
The world would have to wait another ten years for the oh-so-ironic 90's to give us TV shows such as Hercules and Xena, Warrior Princess. By that time, it was too late, as far as I was concerned the moment had passed. I never liked those shows
All this hoopla over The Royal Wedding is giving me unpleasant flashbacks to 1981, but at least this time a few members of the media are speaking out on how ridiculous this whole business is. A tiny step in the right direction; who knows, maybe in another thirty years we'll have wised up enough to ignore this dumb shit completely.
But it got me to thinking, although I do tend to go on and on about the glories of the past, there are some elements of the present that make life much, much better for those of us alive right now. So much better that they deserve their own blog post.
I'm going to start out by saying that I'm not including The Internet here, because obvious stuff is obvious. And then there are things like Debit Cards and Cel Phones, which did improve people's lives but also brought in a whole new set of problems. Debit cards make people overspend, and cel phones make people stupid.
What I'm talking about here are the little everyday things that make life more livable. Things like:
1. Toothpaste in Plastic Tubes
If you remember the days when all toothpastes came in metal tubes, you remember how you had to carefully squeeze from the bottom. You probably also remember that every household had at least one moron who'd squeeze from the middle, thus trapping a bunch of toothpaste at the bottom of the tube and wasting it. You could get one of those little keys that you clip to the tube and wind up, making it easier to squeeze from the bottom, but that only worked if the aforementioned moron wasn't squeezing from the middle.
Plastic tubes eliminated that problem, something for which I thank the gods of technology every morning and every night.
2. Flat Screen TV's
Flat screen TV's are one of those things that I love for no other reason than that we were supposed to have them. We were told that in the future, there would by flying cars, meals-in-a-pill, and flat TV's. The future is here, we still don't have flying cars and meals-in-a-pill, but we do have flat TV's, so that's one thing that worked out as planned.
3. Electronic Billboards
In a perfect world there wouldn't be any billboards, but if we must have them, why not have the ones that light up, change display, and generally make cityscapes more interesting and less dreary? Yes, I know they're an energy sink. I still think they're pretty neat.
4. Digital Compositing
(geek on) OMG THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME! (/geek off)
Movies look better without matte lines. Period, end of.
5. Home Video
(Technically, this was around in 1981, but wouldn't become ubiquitous until much later).
You know what I don't miss? Movie theaters. Sure, there was some magic to the days of Going To The Movies, but I'm quite happy to sacrifice the magic if it means not having to deal with crying babies, drunken adults, gross floors and idiots in the projection booth who forget to change the focus after the previews. In more recent years we've also had stupid people on cel phones and commercials before they even start with the previews. Why put up with all that when every other person has a huge flat screen TV, and a movie's video release comes just a few months after the theatrical release? I look forward to the day that groups of people form private movie clubs, and just rent out a theater to watch the latest release. If that doesn't happen, movie theaters can just die.
Roosevelt is a fun-loving dude, but he's also the smartest kid in school. Roosevelt's choice in music would be upbeat, catchy and danceable, yet with a positive social message.
Roosevelt Franklin would listen to Sly and the Family Stone.
Ernie likes to annoy people. He would prefer music guaranteed to get on everybody's nerves.
Ernie would listen to KISS.
Whether it be pigeons, oatmeal, or linoleum, Bert can always be counted on to like what nobody else likes. His musical taste would be definitely uncool. Not ironic-uncool, but real uncool, and preferably several decades out of date.
Bert would listen to Pat Boone.
Happy, friendly, and a complete idiot, Grover would fit in perfectly with the disco scene. They even put him on the cover of Sesame Street Fever, for heaven's sake.
Grover would listen to KC and the Sunshine Band.
Oscar would listen to the Sex Pistols. 'Nuff said.
In his long, immortal life, the Count has clearly faced much sadness, but instead of turning away from darkness, he embraces it. He is a proto-goth.
The Count would listen to Bauhaus.
The ultimate hedonist, Cookie Monster is bombastic and loud, living utterly in the moment. His musical choice would be equally self-indulgent.
Cookie Monster would listen to Queen.
Sam the Robot
Sam is mechanical, repetitive, and extremely irritating. Same goes for his music.
Sometime in the 1990's, thanks to the miracle of late night cable TV, I rediscovered my love for low-budget 80's barbarian movies. By that I mean, movies made in the 80's about barbarians, not movies about barbarians in the 80's. In other words, this:
Lana Clarkson had a small role in Deathstalker (the first one, the one that nobody remembers), a starring role in Barbarian Queen, and many other roles in many other low-budget swords and sorcery romps. She never quite managed to break out of that genre, but she made the most of her accomplishments, appearing at comic book conventions to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. A small, yet bright luminary in the geek universe.
She might have gone on like this indefinitely; geeks are noble savages, we love forever and hate forever. But it was not to be. For reasons unknown to anyone living, she ended up at the house of Phil Spector on the dawn of February 3, 2003.
I'm willing to extend to Mr. Spector the benefit of the doubt, and speculate that Ms. Clarkson's death might have been an accident. No one knows exactly what happened in those early morning hours, possibly not even Mr. Spector himself, by many accounts he was hopelessly drunk that night, and by many more accounts had been losing his grip on reality for decades.
Based on various anecdotes, what I think happened was this: Mr. Spector was engaging in gunplay, the second most dangerous form of sex play in existence (the first being autoerotic asphyxiation) and forgot which of his guns were loaded and which were not. He reportedly had about eight guns, and was clearly out of his mind. He had supposedly done this before, but this time, instead of clicking on an empty chamber, he put a bullet in Ms. Clarkson's head.
The homicide, and subsequent trials, made very little impact in the news, even here in Los Angeles. By then, people were sick and tired of celebrity trials. People largely ignored it. I ignored it.
But I wouldn't have ignored it if the media had said who Lana Clarkson was. Not that I knew her name, but if they had just mentioned Deathstalker or Barbarian Queen, I would have sat up and taken notice. Instead, they referred to her as an "adult film" actress, giving me and everyone else the impression that she was yet another porn star who came to an unfortunate end, following in the footsteps of Dorothy Stratton and John Holmes.
If the media hadn't been so intent on devaluing the victim in a transparent attempt at propping up Phil Spector's sagging star, they might have generated a lot more interest. Lana Clarkson may not have been a big-time celebrity, but she had found her place in the scheme of things, and it was a place worthy of respect.
As it was, I didn't put two and two together until about a week ago, when I was tipped off. Lesson learned: pay attention to names and don't automatically believe what the media says.