Joanie Loves Chachi


Each Happy Days spinoff seemed to get weaker and weaker as they mounted in number and this one is no exception. The premise of this show is that the two Milwaukee lovebirds move south to the big city of Chicago to chase their musical dreams. Chachi legally changes his name to Chachicago! (complete with exclamation point) in a rather daft attempt to create a unique identity and the group Chachicago! and The Joanies is born.  Being outsiders and damn near penniless, they initially have a tough time breaking into the “pay to play” live music scene. But Joanie will do anything for her man and using her feminine wiles she soon manages to secure gigs all over town for them. Unfortunately, public interest in these shenanigans was low and the series was cancelled before the storyline progressed even as far as them landing a record deal, but they do manage to have a few memorable musical moments along the way. Their live version of “Beer Barrel Polka” in Episode 6 is delivered with sudsy Wisconsin brio.

The one notable thing about this show was the desire of the producers to film on location as much as possible—and the milieu in this case was early 80’s Chicago Indie Rock. So fans of this era will see a lot of famous musical faces seamlessly integrated into the action. In fact, the episode where Joanie attempts suicide three times after accidently overhearing Chachicago! exchanging graphic “groupie stories” with notorious Windy City musical studs Steve Bjorklund of Strike Under and Jeff Pezzatti of Naked Raygun is just about worth the price of the entire box set. Another memorable episode is when Chachicago! beats the shit out of scrawny rock journalist Steve Albini after the latter gives Chachicago! and the Joanies a scathing review in the Daily Northwestern student newspaper. He uses a hammer to administer this—Albini would later cop the idea for the title and cover of an album released by his own group, the infamous Big Black.

The Morton Downey, Jr. Show


He came out of nowhere and captured the country’s attention almost overnight.  He sported pleated pants, bright red socks, kiltie tassel loafers and a three pack an hour cigarette habit.  A frat boy all grown up into a “manhood” of intolerance, jingoism and unbridled, loud-mouth aggression. Up until his debut even the most irascible TV talking heads had striven to present themselves with at least a sheen of civility. Morton had about as much polish as a sand-blasted cinder block.  His was the Donahue-style talk show set recast as a modern-day bear-baiting pit.  Morton’s bookers served up an endless parade of liberal straw men and women willing to sit on his stage and be verbally berated, assaulted by carefully aimed clouds of secondhand smoke and maybe even tipped out of their chairs by the man. All while the audience howled blue murder like a bunch of villagers with pitchforks and torches. It made for great television, but it couldn’t last. Shouting matches quickly become exhausting and soon even his own fans were losing interest.

Morton had one last throw of the dice but it came up snake eyes. The mirror in the bathroom at San Francisco Airport betrayed him, and the backwards swastika on his face that had purportedly been applied by crazed skinheads brandishing magic markers and hairdressing shears was eventually revealed to be the emblem of a desperate act of self-abuse. So the whole world laughed at him. And once you became a laughingstock, you certainly aren’t going to keep earning a living as a bully because bullies need fear and intimidation to succeed. So that was it.

The whole thing lasted less than eighteen months.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka

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In the early 80s, few sights were more electrifying than the spectacle of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka perched atop a turnbuckle about to live up to his name and, seemingly, break the bonds of gravity. The one time I saw him live, in some run-down high school gymnasium on a bible black and freezing Tuesday night in February of 1982, I rushed home and re-wrote Tennyson’s “The Eagle” in a spiral notebook I still have to this day.

He grasps the ‘buckle with crooked hands
Undisputed hero of the minor market lands
Ring’d with the faces of yahoos he stands

The injured opponent beneath him crawls
While the haughty climber nods to our calls
And like a thunderbolt he falls

I took a picture of him that night, too, from about five feet away as he strode back to the dingy locker room that served as a dressing room. It’s a bit blurry, but there’s no mistaking his power and charisma–he looks larger than life—and in the background you can see rows of people going absolutely apeshit as he moves past. It didn’t matter who the belt-holder was at that time–some lame-ass doughboy named Bob Backlund, I think–Jimmy Snuka was the people’s champ, and it was because he was doing things all the rest of us could only dream of. He really did fly.

Alas, everything that flies must at some point return to earth and it turned out that Jimmy was no better than the next palooka, and maybe a bit worse. He loved to drink and snort coke and he had some anger management problems that were no doubt exacerbated by the chemicals he was taking to keep that bronze physique so chiseled. He played a solo game of handball one night with some young woman’s head against the walls of a $29.99 Allentown, Pennsylvania motel room and she ended up dying from it. He managed to “wrestle free” of any legal consequences, and indeed, the upstanding people who run pro wrestling managed to keep a pretty tight lid on the whole abhorrent affair, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing that keeps you in a guy’s corner once you find out about it.

He hasn’t done much wrestling-wise since the mid 90s, but he still puts on an occasional show in sleepy rat-hole towns here and there. If you look at the fairly recently-taken pictures that accompany his Wikipedia page, you can pretty much see exactly what Glenn Danzig is going to look like in a decade or so. It ain’t pretty. But hey, professional wrestling is a tough racket and so is punk rock.

J. Danforth Quayle


He moved–like a tiger on Vaseline. He could lick ‘em by smiling, his ass was God-given, he was the nazz. A  southpaw with a tan as white as Midwestern snow, the fact of the matter is, if you were anywhere near Greencastle, Indiana in the late 60s you couldn’t spend a day in that place without picking up the vibe of the hippest hepcat in town, a college student, a fraternity member even, who nonetheless exuded the gravity of a guru and the sex appeal of a silent movie sheik.

In 1967, a struggling young British troubadour named David Jones passed through town and played an acoustic show in the coffee nook at the Student Center at DePauw University. After the show he was introduced to “Dan the Man”—and he talked with this man; he got stoned with this man; he was changed by this man. Jones, who at Quayle’s suggestion would soon change his surname to Bowie, returned to England and ruminated on his profound experience for an entire five years, but by 1972 he had come to grips with what he had learned enough to create an alter-ego based on the life of this American sage who had exerted so much influence on him. And rock and roll was never the same.

Lloyd Bentsen, you are no Ziggy Stardust!!!

Home Shopping Network

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In 1985, a hammer blow from Florida put the first cracks in the foundation of a centuries-old brick and mortar hegemony that has since crumbled entirely. Home Shopping Network allowed people to shop while they were watching TV, and just like that, commerce had suddenly become entertainment! All you needed was a television, a telephone, and an overwhelming desire to own cheap jewelry, hand-knitted “theme” sweaters, 400-in-1 kitchen gadgets, celebrity-endorsed fragrances, supposedly rare baseball cards, soda-making machines, hermit crab colonies–the list went on forever. If you sat there long enough, just about anything you could think of would come parading into view, its wondrous merits detailed in breathless hyperbole by one of the HSN hosts.

Home Shopping Network also wreaked havoc on a little thing called the MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. Before HSN, if you wanted to purchase something like an officially-licensed The Golden Girls Christmas Tree Ornament set, you went to F.W. Woolworth or your local equivalent, paid $9.99 for it and went home. On HSN, that same item was now “worth” $79.99, marked down 70% (for the next hour only!) so the final cost to you had now ballooned to $23.99. Plus shipping. A terrible deal when compared to the old way, but it seemed like a good deal so legions of HSN viewers burned up the phone lines as if the Hindenburg had just brushed up against them.

FUN FACT: Home Shopping Network is based in St. Petersburg, Florida and they have always fostered a friendly rivalry with the Church of Scientology, which is based just up the road in neighboring Clearwater. Every year in February the two corporations deploy their warships out onto Tampa Bay to battle for the rights to the Thetan Cup, a beautiful sterling silver trophy that was designed and smithed by L. Ron Hubbard himself. This is not a reenactment or field exercise but an actual naval engagement using real ordnance and participants on both sides do perish every year, but all the money raised from ticket receipts and sales of replica Thetan Cups sold on HSN goes to charity, so it is most certainly worth it.


lowenbrau one
The foreign beer that wasn’t really foreign. At some point, Miller Brewing Company thought it would be cute or whatever to brew a replica German beer in America and sell it for two or three bucks more than the going rate for its domestics. Even though it was a domestic. They wrapped it in a handsome sky blue label and even put silver foil around the neck like you would a bottle of fine champagne. And yet it never really caught on. It just didn’t have the “it” factor of a real foreign beer, because let’s face it, Milwaukee is hardly Amsterdam or Munich.

Lowenbrau was a pretender stepping into the ring with giants like Heineken and Molson Golden, and it got pummeled. Even smaller players had its number. Canada’s Moosehead had cool “Moose is Loose” T-Shirts and Germany’s St. Pauli Girl had buxom Bavarian (no matter the beer was actually brewed in the Hanseatic city of Bremen) barmaids that looked great on huge posters. Lowenbrau had a lame version of Wham’s “Last Christmas” video. I remember leaving a six pack in the refrigerator at a high school party once, (which would pretty much guarantee you getting a couple of bottles nicked) and no one stole even one of them. So if it couldn’t even tempt a bunch of punk kids walking around with swill like Little Kings Cream Ale and Mickey’s Big Mouths in their hands, which chance did it have when the Michael Milkens and Ivan Boeskys of the world sat down for a cold brew?

Oxford Blues


It sounds crazy, but I’m convinced that way back in 1986, when Andre Agassi was just a skinny kid boarding at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, he and a couple of his fellow racket brats saw this movie somewhere like the DeSoto Square Mall in Bradenton one night, and just like that, the rebel “ANDRE AGASSI” was born.

In Oxford Blues, a cocky kid from Las Vegas with outrageous hair and a love of acid-washed denim falls through the looking glass and ends up at Oxford University in England. He doesn’t exactly fit in, and by refusing to give even an inch to his host country’s traditions and mores, he makes things extremely difficult for himself until he ends up being shunned and reviled by all. Then after a period of time, he realizes he was wrong, learns to embrace all those stuffy conventions he had once fought tooth and nail, eventually claiming victory in true underdog Yankee style.

I’m telling you, it’s the story of Andre Agassi and Wimbledon! Las Vegas native Andre saw this movie, immediately identified with Rob Lowe’s character Nick DeAngelo, and decided to be that character. Right from the start, he wielded a big Prince tennis racket of contention with the All-England Club—the dress code was “depersonalizing,” bowing towards the royal box “degrading,” forcing world-class athletes to subsist wholly on strawberries and cream for two weeks “downright dangerous.” He refused to even go there for a couple years, but he eventually (just like Nick!) came around, started behaving himself, and in 1992 won his first Grand Slam victory at the very Major he seemed least likely to.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Ferrari Testarossa


Was this THE exotic supercar of the 80s? In terms of mass appeal, I really can’t think of anything that would knock it from the top of the automotive mountain. Lamborghini? Yeah, the Countach was still going strong and it was without question an awesome-looking car, but the design dated from the early 70s, so it’s hard to claim that it “belonged” to the 80s. Lambo’s child that decade was the Jalpa, which was definitely not a ride you saw many people rushing to stick up on their dorm room wall. Maserati? Forget it, the 80s were most distinctly unkind to this marque—the languid, ugly Biturbo was a shamefully tarnished tine on the famous trident for sure. Lotus Esprit? Not bad, but hey, it had a four cylinder engine, just like your degenerate Uncle Ralph’s 1978 Chevy Monza. RUF Porsche 911? Fast as hell for sure, but again, we’re talking about a basic design that had been around for decades at that point.

Later in the decade, the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 appeared and while they were untouchable in terms of performance, they were almost like one-off freaks in a way. No, it seems to me that as an “everyday” supercar, the Testarossa captured the public’s imagination like no other. Every Friday night, millions of people tuned in to watch a certain Bianco-colored version chase down criminals in Miami. Michael Jackson even owned one, although I’m not sure he had the physical or mental capabilities to actually drive it. And for just one lousy quarter, anybody could sit behind the wheel of one (next to a hot blond, no less) thanks to the Sega arcade game Out Run.

What do you think?



If you are ever doing something you know is wrong, like, say, publicly masturbating across the street from a middle school or waving a Jennings Arms .25 ACP caliber pistol in the face of some hapless BevMo! clerk, and you suddenly hear the watered-down reggae song “Bad Boys” start emanating out of thin air, well, you’d best put on your camera-ready face because you are about to be a television star! Back in 1989, the fly-on-the-wall aspect of peeking over the shoulders of police officers as they chased, tackled and then struggled to communicate with a bunch of fucked-up fuck-ups lying through their teeth in answer to every single question asked of them was a unique and somewhat guilty indulgence. Were we supposed to be seeing this stuff? Was it okay to enjoy watching it?? Those kind of questions were legitimate concerns back then, but we as a people quickly got over it, so much so that these days “reality television” dominates the dial with a bounty of lowest common denominator-fueled trash that is, quite frankly, hard to stomach.

I used to wonder if the powers that be in counties like Broward, King and Multnomah felt they’d made a deal with the devil soon after signing their contracts with Barbour/Langley Productions as viewers from coast to coast witnessed the antics of their local street vermin and undoubtedly made personal pledges to never get within several hundred miles of their respective municipalities. Now, I don’t think it really made a difference. Every community has its “bad apples.” The funny thing about COPS was that it always ran at 8pm on Saturday nights, making it the perfect background entertainment for groups of friends to watch while “pre-gaming” at someone’s house before heading out to get even more smashed at nearby bars and nightclubs. Whether these broadcasts served as a deterrent or an inspiration to the evening’s subsequent behavior is a difficult question to answer…

Tom Clancy


Was he REALLY just a small-town insurance agent turned writer? Do you really think some “average guy from Maryland” was able to draw such meticulous renderings of the inner workings of America’s most glorious instruments, both martial and diplomatic, of the post-détente Cold War by reading Popular Science magazine and attending gun shows?  No, Clancy was a mole. A mole who had infiltrated the U.S. Government on behalf of the U.S. Government, but a mole nonetheless. The full facts of his only recently-ended mission probably won’t see the light of day for another 100 years, if ever. I have a feeling it was part of a covert operation to instill pride and patriotism in those American citizens who were sorely lacking it (like Chris Jackson and Roseanne Barr), but who knows?

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at his dust cover jacket photos over the years. He’s always standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier or sitting in a fighter jet. Do you think the powers that be are wont to allow any Joe Schmoe writer and his accompanying photographer to stroll about and around these kinds of top-secret billion-dollar pieces of machinery so they can get some “good snaps” for their publishing house? Yeah, right, just try it sometime and see, but make sure your last will and testament is in proper order. Because they will destroy you.