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August 20, 2007

70s Guy Dissed by Doll

The Tarts are delighted to welcome guest blogger Shane Gericke, a former journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times whose chilling thrillers Cut to the Bone and Blown Away feature rookie cop Emily Thompson facing down serial killers with the help of her love interest, Commander Martin Benedetti.  Blown Away won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award as best debut mystery of 2006.  You can visit Shane at his website.


70s Guy Dissed by Doll

by Shane Gericke

I hate Julie Albright.  Hate hate hate her.  Why?  Cause she called me a relic.  Oh, she couched it coyly enough.  Said guys my age are "historical."  Which is her clever way of saying old.  Worn out.  Past prime.  Geezer.  Grandpa-Pants.  Relic.

I'm not, I swear it!  I'm only 51.  I have a big head of dark hair.  (Well, sorta dark, and mostly all there.)  I have my own teeth (till next month's bicuspid implant), and I can drive at night.  (Hey, that's still true.  Cool.)  I'm young and vital, dammit!

Sigh.  All right, all right.  I know, I need to let go.  It's not Julie's fault.  It's the doing of her overlord -- American Girl.  You know, the folks who make dolls and publish books about them like they're real girls with real lives and adventures and heartaches?  Yeah, them.  They're the ones I hate, not Julie.  She's just a kid.  (Well, actually, a doll.  A real one.)

My crisis started with the July 16 issue of Publisher's Weekly.  The front cover ad was from American Girl Publishing.  The product was its new character doll, Julie Albright.  (Albright.  All Bright.  If that isn't a focus-grouped, corporate-tested, la-de-freaking-da name, I'll eat my walker.)  "Julie" dots her i's with little circles.  She wears her hair long, swingy and parted off center, her peasant blouse tied with beaded macrame and her bell bottoms perfectly creased.  That part was harmless, cute even.  Then I read the ad copy.  "Introducing 70s girl Julie Albright," it bleated.  "Our first new historical character in five years!"   Historical.   As in . . . well, you know.

I can't believe the 70s are now considered historical.  I came of age in the 1970s.  Coming of age is when a person is really born.  I kissed my first girl in the 70s.  Tried to go all the way a few years later but that didn't work out because she'd found Jesus and I wasn't Him.  Bummer.  Became an Eagle Scout.  Acquired a taste for coffee.  Graduated high school.  Discovered beer.  Suffered my first hangover.  Graduated college.  Took my first real job -- a newspaperman.  Clipped out my first story -- something about a sewer commission, I think, or maybe it was square dancers -- and pasted it onto the front of the Washington Post like I was Woodward and Bernstein.  Rented my first apartment.  Made my first Single Guy Rents First Apartment supper -- a can of tomato soup, cooked directly on the grate, and a frypan of pork and onions.  Yum.  Took my first bride, who's still with me three decades later despite Julie's saying I'm "historical."

It was just yesterday I was buttoning my leisure suit over my Nehru shirt.  Fluffing my mutton-chop sideburns.  Wondering if I'd be sent to Vietnam.  Watching Nixon resign on TV.  Waiting in long lines for gasoline thanks to the Arab oil embargo.  Screwing license plates over the holes in my rusted out VW Beetle.  Grooving to the Village People and YMCA.  Watching The Poseidon Adventure, Five Easy Pieces and The Towering Inferno at the movie theatre . . .

Oh.  My. God.  The 70s are historical.  And so am I.  Breathe.  Think. 

Hey!  51 is the new 21, right?  So I'm not old after all.  My hair is still jet black, and there's no rust on my chassis, automotive or otherwise.  Thanks, Julie.  You're a doll.


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Ah yes. I did a double-take when my students shared their discussions from history class about the Vietnam War. Vietnam? History? Wasn't it just a few weeks ago?
Then I did the math -- it was way before their birth, ancient history to them. I started adding bits of my own history to their discussion and using some of that "history" in discussions -- Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" set against the draft lottery my male friends sweated through. My radical past is now history, and far enough back to be talked about as such. We MADE history -- not so shabby really.

Looks like I'm in good company.

50 and proud to be a relic!

Does this mean we are now the very same people we used to warn others about?

After my mother died in '92, an interesting phenomena occurred. All photographs of me in Nehru jackets, ice-cream leisure suits with paisley shirts, huge, giant "Aviator Shades" tinted a horrendous yellow, 17 year old boy 'stache, Prince Valiant hair style, and hideous blue ruffle shirt with a white dinner jacket mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.

As we were in Las Vegas, I've always believed there was a connection with this mystery and Area 51....

Shane, it's nice to have a champion for us 50-somethings. Thanks for being our guest!

I'm wondering if we ought to run a TLC contest. Send us photos of yourself, circa 1975, and we'll decide who best represents the era. I have a feeling William in the Prince Valiant haircut would be the big winner.

Gee...I think I was still losing baby teeth in 1975.

Here's a perception of history that helped me cope with aging. I was a supervisor for a high School Radio Station in 1990. The student D. J. announced that she was playing an oldie;
the song was "Father Figure" by George Michael," a song released in 1987.

As Einstein said, all things are relative.


We cleared the skies for Harley's arrival tonight. Her Houston gig should not be bothered by Hurricane Mean Dean either!

Quite relative. During a class on 20th Century poets at U of Missouri, St. Louis, the undergraduates in the class protested my choice of Langston Hughes for my project, "He's not contemporary; he's Harlem Renaissance," they argued. Finally, I was the problem, he was within the lifetime of the professor and myself, but way before their lifetimes.
In a discussion in my own classroom, I couldn't remember the name of a soccer player I'd dated in the '70's. Students said I must have made it up, because no one would forget something like that. "Oh, and what do you remember from 1977?" I challenged -- nothing, they weren't born then. . . .

WE are NOT old!

I'm with you, Shane - I grew up in the 70s a couple of years behind you. Hell, we survived disco. What do these kids know from what that was like?

I think William definitely has me beat -- I was just the girl with the straight hair and bright blue eye shadow. I did have some very cool super-bell-bottoms and some reasonably short mini-skirts, but had to borrow my Mom's boots to wear with them.

It does freak me out when I hear my favorite songs from high school referred to as "oldies" on local radio, and it's a standing joke between me and my husband that the 70's are my musical power zone.

But history is a funny thing -- it can pass faster than you think. I did my first two years of college at U.C. Berkeley, starting in 1976. My first year, I made a pilgrimage to People's Park. Early in my second year, one of the new freshmen in my dorm came up to me and said "So I went to People's Park today." "Really?", I asked, excited to share this wonderful experience with her. "Yeah," she replied. "I don't see what the big deal is. Half of it is a parking lot."


Geez, guys, it's just a number :o) The trick is in how you spin it.

I was bitching about Bush to my critique partner (I know, no politics, so I won't say anymore about that)and I made some reference to Nixon...and she didn't remember him. She knew he'd been president but other than that, no reaction. She'd been in grade school during that time. When did I get so old???

I took a group of business executive to Brussels as couple of years ago. We drove by a Nazi extermination camp. I got chills just looking at it. My group of 30-40 y/o's basically yawned. It meant nothing to them.

I came of age in the 70's. How I miss the body I had then! In fact, Julie Albright has MY HAIR!

Now, I need more coffee. Let me grab my walker and hobble over to the coffee pot.

Great column. Lots of smiles and grins.

What's the alternative to growing older? Toes up - and I'm not ready for that.

Good God, Cyndi, you're right! I had Julie Albright hair, too!!

I'm afraid I gave in to Farrah hair during the time frame. I've an hysterical photo of me with my Farrah-do, and the mister with his jeans vest, British driving cap, and Gene Shalit mustache. The teenager couldn't get off the floor when he saw it, he was laughing so hard.

I too came of age in the 70's. I tried - I wanted to have Julie Albright hair. It was a challenge - my hair is brunette, very thick and wavy. I wasn't very successful. It took years (& a good hairdresser) for me to finally embrace my curls.

Where can we send those photos? I've got one with my white girl Afro and legs that I wish I still had -- not that they've been amputated or anything, but those years can be read on my present legs.

Okay, so 51 is the new 21. That means--I'm a teenager. Wow. You should guest blog all the time, Shane.

On the other hand, I have a sudden urge to harrass my parents. I wonder why that is.

One of my favorite tabloid headlines, from years back, is "Couple Flees Talking Doll" . . . Shane, that's the feeling this blog inspired in me. The doll's the scary one! Not us!

I was of the cult of Farrah Hair, and I have the photos to prove it.

My sister gave me a coffee cup "After 40 it's just patch, patch, patch" -- but it does beat the alternative, and a classic chassis deserves the extra maintenance. Once, when my all-time favorite principal had a significant birthday (probably 50; I know there was a 0) on the day of an all-school assembly, some of the teachers had students hold up a banner with his age. He used it as a teaching moment, thanking the student for honoring his "great accomplishment" and wishing them all the "wisdom and good fortune" to also attain that age.
Meanwhile, about those shoes -- yes they do contain latex . . .and they were tickled to be mentioned on this site . . .

I had the hair my son would if the priests didn't tap him on the shoulder and send him to detention if he doesn't get it cut.

Sarah, who must be on vacation, had the Farah hair, too. Longer than now and blonde. I wonder if she colored it then.

Julie Albright? This must work both ways...I don't remember her. TV show? Teen Idol? I DO remember Farrah and the Angels.
And the Shirelles. I never had to worry about my hair though. The one time I got it long enough to 'flip', my mom made an appointment for me to get a nasty smelly perm. Little Orphan Annie of the sophomore class. It's been short ever since.

Oh Boy, I miss looking at the Farrah hair with t-shirt and blue jeans....even if the memory of the malaise of the Carter Administration is so closely associated with the end of the 1970s.

Great blog, Shane! Thanks for visiting us at TLC.

I am thankful that my daughter spent only a brief time in American Girl land. Of course, nothing is creepier than those My Twin dolls. Yikes.

It always cracks me up to hear songs from high school on the Oldies Stations. Although, now that I have my iPod, I rarely listen to the radio for music any way.

Dave - not sure where the hell you were, but I remember the Carter Administration with great fondness and lots of laughs. Not that I'm being political - I'm just talking about my life in general from '77 to '81.

I was in high school and college during those years. A blast. No real responsibilities - no bigass parental worries, no sleepless nights over whether my son might be drafted. Life was good.

Shane, thank you. More proof that much consumerism has unintended consequences.

'Becca, speaking of American Girl dolls as we are, I can honestly report a beneficial side effect: the granddaughter who got a Minnesota pioneer 'Kirsten' six years ago has now taken an active interest in history, writing and (shudder) journalism.

ArkansasCyndi - same experience vis-a-vis the camps, albeit with a bunch of rather unimaginative 'professional consumers.' Their no-stick coatings were never disturbed.

Funny that a doll can make us feel older, but our grandchildren can keep us feeling young.

iPod envy here -- eagerly awaiting the results of the latex inquiry.

Hello, everyone! I would have written sooner in the day, but got caught up in a book convention thingy that took most of the day. Sorry about that. But I'm here now and diving in.

Thanks so much for all the great feedback. Here's some answers, in no particular order:

Nancy ... losing your baby teeth in '75? Ouch!!! I'm losing a REAL tooth tomorrow at Ye Olde Dentist. Cracked it somehow--probably biting on a bullet during book edits--and it finally has to be replaced. Your turn is coming :-)

Tom ... hey, don't shudder over journalism. It's a great field for her to get into. If nothing else, great editors teach you how to write, edit, make deadlines, and all those other great life-skills. Just don't let her go into television. Now THAT's a shudder!

Kath ... wait till "oldies" become "dusties." That will make my hair turn gray. Oh. Wait. It IS gray. When did that happen?

Mary ... my public high school was even tougher than the local Catholic school. NO long hair, NO sideburns, NO jeans, NO girls wearing pants, NONONONONONONONOOOOOO. I don't know how we survived. Ick!

Maryann ... bitching about Bush? Who'd ever do THAT :-)

Sue ... my mother SEWED me a Nehru shirt. She was a great tailor, but Lord did I hate wearing that thing. Made me look dorkier than I already was.

Rebecca the bookseller ... I actually like the American Girl doll program. Anything that gets kids to read is OK by me. They need to read my prescriptions when they give me my pills in the nursing home ...

Sue ... I've never ever had Julie Allbright hair. I could never grow it long. After a certain length, it would literally curl around and grow straight up. So I always had to keep it short.

More answers as soon as I post this!


Aw, nuts. I misread who posted which comment. Everybody shift one name down in my replies :-)

Mary (I think I have this right now)--I hear you on the Vietnam discussion. The first guy I worked for right out of college was a Nam veteran, and he wasn't much older than me. Now, he's retired! Your students' reply reminds me of the kids who ask if Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings.

Harley ... when you wore your Farrah hair, did you point your finger like a gun and put it next to your ear? That's one of the things I remember from the Angels ... they were so darn cute when they took out the bad guys :-)

Mary ... I love that "classic chassis." It reminds me of the old medallions in every Ford automobile: "Body by Fischer." Anyone remember that? Do they still do that at Ford? I've driven Hondas since the oil embargo and have no idea.

Joyce ... damn straight! If we're relics, it means we're collectibles and therefore worth a lot.

William ... eek, I remember ruffle shirts. At my wedding, I wore a powder blue tux with a ruffle shirt. I shudder when I see that photo. Then again, my hair was thick and black, so there's something to be said for looking. Do kids wear colored tuxes to proms and weddings any more, or are they smarter?

Nancy ... great idea, the photo contest. My high school graduation photo featured me in a maroon striped shirt, gold checked tie,and brown checked suitjacket. I think it scared the photographer.

Sue ... remember when we used to laugh at the "old" folks sitting around the dinner table discussing our ailments, doctors and surgeries? We are they!

Mary ... Langston Hughes. Is that Howard's brother?

Kerry ... they put up that parking lot after they paved paradise. (If you get that reference, you're a fellow Relic!)

Oh, and before I forget, I want to thank Those Terrific Tarts for asking me to blog. I've not done it before, and it was a blast!

And Harley, be safe down in Houston, OK? No fair being swallowed by a hurricane before I check out those Farrah Hair pix.

Ah the Seventies, just when I got "legs" finally, the mini-skirt became the Midi, darn it!

Does anyone remember the Eighties when the saying became don't trust anyone under 30?

Don't buy into the age thing, a writer can be any age and do anything they want! XP~

Ooh, the tuxes. At my sister's wedding in '75, the groom and groomsmen wore powder blue GINGHAM tux jackets with black pants and ruffled shirts. And the bridesmaids were in the same gingham. Lord.

My daughter had the Josafina American Girl doll, and got quite annoyed with me when I pronounced it with the "H" sound for the J. Mexican or no, that J was to be pronounced the American way.

Oh, ick, the midi. The bane of high school boys everywhere, Jean. Haaaaaated it.

Gingham????? Oh, Laura, I'm glad I was "stuck" with powder blue when compared to THAT. Were you stuck wearing one too as a bridesmaid? You don't still have it, do you :-)

Mary ... Langston Hughes. Is that Howard's brother?
Shane, you are too funny -- though if one believes gossip, he did some running around in his day.
I resolved that angry discussion, BTW, by doing my paper on Langston (and throughly enjoying the writing) and my oral presentation on John Berryman. I didn't want to do a discussion with a group of young African-American students angry that I'd "stolen" their guy, and it was good for me to understand Berryman a bit. (I'd decided not to read his poetry after he jumped from the Washington Ave. bridge that connected the two halves of the U of MN campus in Minneapolis).

Shane -- I explained about paradise to the student in question. Her eyes got wide as she said in wonder, "Oh -- is THAT what the song was about????"

Yes, I'm a relic. At my first wedding, the groom wore a rather simple brown tux, but the groomsmen were in forest green. Yes, ruffled shirts all around.

No wonder it didn't last . . .

Kerry, if only he'd worn powder blue ... with ruffles ... and a BIG fat dark blue stripe down the side of each leg ... and a powder blue cummerbund ... it might have lasted. Or maybe not :-)

And Mary, did they enjoy the discussion on Berryman? Me at that age would have been boooored beyond belief. Now, it's all fascinating. What is it they say, youth is wasted on the young?

This weekend, I went to a James Taylor concert. The crowd was mostly 40 plus, so this 46-year old felt quite at home. At one point, JT showed pictures on a big screen of the gang that he used to hang out with back in the 70's including Joni Mitchell and Carole King (but no pics of Carly). A young couple sat next to me and said, "Who?"

Our hair may have changed color against our will and a few crowfeet may have crept in when we weren't looking, but the crowd was still quite young at heart and belted out "You've Got a Friend" and "Sweet Baby James" like we were sitting in our rooms, lava lamps aglow with the slightly warped vinyl spinning round and round...

By the way, if these dolls are so doggone popular, why do all of their friends have to be bought?

Felicia Donovan

The poetry class at U of MO, St. Louis, was unusual, perhaps because Howard Schwartz is such a gifted teacher (also writer of Jewish mythology). There were actually passionate discussions of subtle differences in interpretation of the poems. My take on Berryman was very much influenced by the fact that I was a student at the U of MN, Minneapolis, at the time of Berryman's suicide, and the pedestrian bridge he jumped from was one students used every day. I did refuse to read him for years because of that, but I do think that added to the interest of the rest of the class (though we were really all quite attentive to each other's presentations, and Howard added an extra dimension to each as well).
I even wrote a poem about it (I was also enrolled in a writing seminar that summer--what a summer!), which I later used with my high school juniors when they studied modern Am. writers. (I only thought to use my poem when another teacher started using it in his class, sometimes one misses the most obvious opportunities). I even contacted the U of M for photos of the bridge.

Felicia, I still have a lava lamp. Takes forever to heat up, so I don't use it much, but it's cool to still have after all these years. I still have a crush on Carole King.

Thanks for that unique perspective on Berryman, Mary. Only kids can think suicide is interesting. Those of us closer to ... infinity ... know better!

And everyone, if I didn't mention it yesterday, thanks for writing! It's been terrific meeting all of you this way ... what a cool crowd of readers The Lipsticks have drawn. Has anyone heard from Harley? Is she all right down in Houston?

That's strange,
I thought I submitted this memory of the Carter Administration;
I had to sign up for Selective Service, which was the first step of a possible military draft in 1979 - because of the Soviet invasion of Aphaghanistan and the American hostages being held in Iran for 444 days. The Carter years were not pleasant for this teenager, but Farrah's hair was angelic!

Thanks Shane for this stroll down amnesia lane!

Reading of Berryman's life, I found he had fought suicidal impulses most of his life. His poetry was probably part of the reason he survived for as long as he did.

Hi, Cinema Dave, I'm back from a short book trip. I still have my draft card, having had to sign up in Those Fabulous Seventies. My dad gave me his from Korea, so I have them framed together. Very glad I never had to use it for real!

And Mary, I believe you're right. Writing saves a lot of us writers from our darker impulses. Ken Bruen once told me he writes in order to get the hate out of his system. If you read his marvelously dark books, we're all better for his doing that.

I am really humored by that doll. Anyway, I agree with you Tom. You have the point too.

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