Sunday, April 24, 2022

beach baby

In 1963, producer Sam Arkoff created the "beach party" movie genre. With inspiration from the popular Gidget films and the obscure Love in a Goldfish Bowl, Arkoff signed teen idol Frankie Avalon and Disney dream girl Annette Funicello to appear in the imaginatively-named Beach Party, released by Arkoff's AIP studios in late summer 1963. With the pre-established formula of teens, bathing suits, music and a simple plot thrown in there somewhere, Beach Party was a surprise hit. It spawned eleven more films using the same premise, if not the same locale. The action in most took place on the beach, but some were set in a winter ski lodge and others on the blacktop of an auto race track. However, all were chock full of hunky boys on surfboards and cute girls in bikinis (except, of course, Annette, under strict orders from Walt Disney). They featured music from the top trendy bands of the day, including Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, "Little" Stevie Wonder, Bobby Fuller Four, The Hondells and a slew of one-hit wonders. There was also a roster of popular comedians and actors known for their work in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Buster Keaton, Don Rickles, Keenan Wynn and even Oscar winner Dorothy Malone had no problem lowering themselves to the sophomoric level of writing and humor of these films. They were, indeed, a hoot!

And, boy, do I love them!

Of course, because Hollywood has a nasty habit of rehashing popular ideas, Arkoff's beach series gave other studios the cue to make their own entries into the genre, hoping to cash in on AIP's success. Just recently, I watched United Artists' attempt at making a "beach movie." The film — entitled For Those Who Think Young — is a mess. Just a mess.

Released in July 1964, between AIP's Muscle Beach Party and Bikini BeachFor Those Who Think Young wasn't really well thought out. Sure, it checks all the right boxes (Boys, girls, beach, music, Paul Lynde), but it lacks the endearing quality of the AIP films. Say what you will about the Frankie/Annette movies. They may be silly. They may have sub-par acting, but they do have plots. Paper-thin, yes, but plots, just the same. And they stick with those plots until the story is resolved. For a 90 minute feature, there is about 20 minutes worth of plot, allowing plenty of room for dancing on the beach, comical mugging from Buster Keaton and Mickey Rooney and a song or two from the two lead actors. But everything is neatly and satisfyingly summed up by the film's conclusion. And there's even enough time for another song and waving "bye-bye" to the viewing audience.

For Those Who Think Young
starts off with good intentions. Good-looking James Darren is chasing pretty Pamela Tiffin (obviously, Shelley Fabares wasn't available, so they got someone who looks like her), much to the dismay of her over-protective uncle. All that is laid out in the first five minutes. Then, somewhere along the way, the plot is abandoned. There is a disjointed subplot involving a romance between Bob Denver and Nancy Sinatra. Suddenly, a major shift is made that makes Tiffin's uncle, played by up-and-coming comedian Woody Woodbury, the lead character. James Darren and Pamela Tiffin disappear for long periods of time, taking their storyline with them. Meanwhile, Woodbury monopolizes the screen with a little help from Paul Lynde and a pre-Ginger Tina Louise as a stripper. As the film winds to a close, character actor Robert Middleton is revealed to be an underhanded villain of some sort. He is outed, disgraced and everybody sings... and drinks Pepsi. Yep, at the time, "For Those Who Think Young" was the current advertising slogan for the Number Two cola company. At times, the movie feels like an extended commercial for the soft drink, made apparent by the blatant product placement. See?.... a mess.

The actors are all fine. Bob Denver, just a few months prior to ingratiating himself as everyone's favorite hapless first mate, provides some comic moments as James Darren's valet. Nancy Sinatra, in a brunette wig, is a foil for Denver's antics, otherwise, she is essentially a prop. Claudia Martin (Dean's daughter) is included in the bevy of girls. I suppose when Dino heard that Ol' Blue Eyes' progeny was cast, know. Paul Lynde is... well... Paul Lynde. He mugs for the camera, chews the scenery and delivers his dialogue like he's giving an audition for his role as Samantha Stephens' "Uncle Arthur." (Ironically, the AIP beach movies were predominantly directed by Bewitched showrunner William Asher.) Tina Louise acts as though she is giving a performance worthy of Academy Award consideration. Woody Woodbury, the true star of the movie, is a typical hack comedian. He made a handful of movies after FTWTY and, at 98 years old, still offers a stand-up act in a Florida comedy club.

I usually have a high tolerance for bad movies. I can sit through some real clunkers. Some of my favorites are some really bad movies that I can watch over and over again.

For Those Who Think Young will not be joining their ranks. I have already deleted it from my DVR queue.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

a matter of trust

If you are an avid and long-time reader of this blog (and why wouldn't you be?), you know that I am not particularly fond of the word "amazing." Well, to be more specific, the overuse of the word "amazing." It's a perfectly good word when used correctly, that is, to identify something that is truly — as the good folks at Merriam-Webster put it — "causing astonishment, great wonder, or surprise." In my opinion, that really applies to rare and impressive feats of science, like open heart surgery or building and later docking at the international Space Station. Unfortunately, the impact of describing something as "amazing" has been diluted once it had been attached to a really good plate of spaghetti or your kid bringing home an "A" on a book report.

Well, in the roster of "Things That Bug the Shit Out of Josh Pincus," please add the phrase "trust me." I hate — I mean positively hate — when I hear someone say "trust me."

Trust is a very strong, yet very fragile thing. It takes years to earn someone's trust. First, you have to get to know a person. Know their personality, their way of thinking, their beliefs, their morals, their behavior. You have to understand the way they handle certain situations and only then can you truly trust them. However, once that trust is broken, it will take a very, very long time to reinstate it — if it is able to be reinstated at all. If you trust someone and you catch them lying — even it is about something not remotely related to your trusting situation, their trust has gone right out the window. You think, "If they lied about this, then what else are they lying about...and can I ever trust them not to lie again?"

With that in mind, I cringe when I hear a perfect stranger or remote acquaintance say "trust me." Sometimes a little knowing wink is added to seal the asserted trust. Are you kidding me? Why on earth should I trust someone I just met, don't know and is trying to sell me something or influence my beliefs? "Trust me" implies some expertise - presented without any sort of qualification - on a particular topic or item. Some inside information that won't be shared. Just accept the "trust me" diclaimer as a guarantee that this researched knowledge exists. That will suffice. 

I see the phrase "trust me" appear a lot on many Facebook posts regarding movies, restaurants, vacation destinations or any number of things where an opinion is more suited that a statement of unwarranted trust. "We went to this restaurant and you do not want to get the pineapple upside-down cake — trust me!" Why? Why should I trust you, person on Facebook? Perhaps I would like the pineapple upside-down cake despite the fact that you didn't? Why should this be a trust issue? Am I not permitted to form my own opinion? Do you need to have everyone heed your pineapple upside-down cake decree?

When I was a teenager, I went to Walt Disney World with three of my friends. Actually, I went with two of my friends and a guy who was a friend-of-a-friend. It was the first visit to the famed theme park for everyone except the friend-of-a-friend. He had been before and fancied himself the expert. He took this opportunity to appoint himself "Official Tour Guide," pointing out things we should not miss and things we should skip. As we approached to queue line for the Enchanted Tiki Room, he waved his hand dismissively and loudly stated, "Oh, you don't want to go in there.... trust me." So, we trusted him and continued to walk past the entrance. A year later, we went to Disney World again, this time with a different fourth person. It took a year before we were able to experience the joyful attraction where "the birds sing words and the flowers croon" — thanks to someone I didn't really know telling me to "trust" them.

It is interesting to note that the people you should trust are the ones who don't tell you to trust them. They don't have to tell you to trust them. They don't have to tell you anything. Why should they? Trust is an unspoken bond between people. Once you are told by someone to "trust them," a question of their trust immediately registers. Why? Why are you reminding me to trust you? Is there an issue with your trustworthiness? 

Think about who tells you to trust them...
  • Politicians - There's not a trustworthy one that ever lived.
  • Salespeople (specifically those trying to sell you a car).
  • A guy on TV telling you the kitchen appliance he's offering will replace every other appliance in your kitchen.
  • Restaurant waitstaff - A confidentially-imparted note of trust on a particular menu item usually means the kitchen made to too much and the waitstaff were given instructions to push it on customers.
  • Facebook "friends" you have never actually met.... and in some cases, Facebook friends you have actually met. In this instance, the tried and true process of gaining trust should be employed.

But... for goodness sakes.... don't take my word for it.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

i've been searching so long

Many, many years ago, when my son was little, he and I were in a nearby location of a local chain of home improvement and hardware stores. (When I say "many years ago," I am not exaggerating. My son is nearly 35 years old and the chain closed is last remaining store in 1999.) I rarely venture in to these types of stores, as I don't know the first thing about "home renovations" and "DIY" (aside from that song by Peter Gabriel). Anything more complicated than changing a light bulb will have me phoning someone who regularly straps on a toolbelt before leaving the house.

On this particular trip to the home improvement store, I was probably in search of lightbulbs. But, for some reason that I cannot remember, I was also looking for a simple wire fence that I could put around some flower beds in my yard. If I am not mistaken, Mrs. Pincus had seen them earlier in the week and described them in detail so I could find them in the store. The thing is, if they weren't front and center in a huge featured display in the front of the store, I was going to have a difficult time finding them. You see, I have a personal policy when it comes to shopping. I never — and I mean never, ever ever — ask any employee in any store where a particular item is located. My feeling is justified and I listed the following reasons when I imparted this code to my son.
  1. Employees in stores have no idea where anything in their store is located.
  2. Employees don't care where anything in their store is located.
  3. Employees in stores are not interested in what you are looking for and they don't care if you ever find what you are looking for.
However, after not finding the garden fence in question prominently displayed as soon as I walked through the front entrance, I spotted a young man wearing a nametag and a royal blue apron identifying him as an employees of the store. Against my better judgement, I approached him and asked if he could tell me where the garden fence was stocked, particularly and I launched into a detailed description of the fence, separating my hands to approximate the length and width of each fence section and noting that each piece was embellished with small plastic flowers. The nametagged-and-aproned young man stared at me with a lifeless expression, as though my entire dissertation was delivered in a language other than his native tongue. When I finished speaking, I waited — hopefully — for a helpful, informative response. One that would point me in the direction of the store's vast garden fence department. Instead, his slackened jaw opened just wide enough to say: "Uh, we don't carry that."

I looked at him. I decided not to repeat what I had just asked with even more detail, perhaps some more description that he may have missed in my initial explanation. No. I just walked away. My son and I were going to find the garden fence on our own. We wandered towards the back of the store and located a giant directional sign pointing the way to an outdoor garden department. When the automatic doors parted, the first thing we saw — piled to the ceiling — was an enormous display of the garden fence fitting the description of what my wife explained to me... and what I had just explained to the young man with the nametag and apron. My son and I marveled at the display, shaking our heads as we gathered a dozen or so sections of fence. As we headed to the cash register area, we passed the young man with the nametag and apron. 

"Hey!," I said to him, "The fence is back in the garden department." He looked at me as though he had not seen and spoken with me less than five minutes earlier. After looking at me — silently — for as much time as he deemed necessary, he disappeared down an aisle, no doubt in an effort to avoid any more human contact, be it customer or supervisor.

Yesterday, over a quarter of a century later, my wife went to kill some time in Walmart while I got my haircut at a salon across the street. She made a small list of some things that she knew — for a fact — could be purchased at the mighty retail giant because she had purchased those items there before. There was one item on her list that she was not sure if Walmart carried. Wandering around the store, Mrs. P asked a young woman in an identifying Walmart vest if she could help. She asked the young employee if they carried "craft glue." The woman stared blankly at my wife. "I don't know what that is.," she confessed. Now there are items that, I'll admit, are curiously named. A Philips screwdriver for instance. Explaining this to someone who is not familiar with tools could prove difficult. There are some plumbing components that have misleading names like a "j-bend," "p-trap" or the mysteriously named "ballcock." But "craft glue" is fairly self-explanatory if you understand the meaning of those two words separately... like "chocolate milk." My wife asked a more general question. "Does the store have a craft department?" The question was met with a puzzled expression from the employee. "You know," my wife elaborated, "like glitter and sewing stuff?" The young employee perked up, as she knew the answer to this one. "Yes!," she said, "Yes we do!" 

Well if you know there is a craft department and you just heard the word "craft" in the name of the thing I am looking for... oh never mind.

Mrs. P found the craft glue on her own.

My policy stands firm.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

learned my lesson well

Well, now you got me started. After my "television" post a few weeks ago, I'm back on course to talk about my favorite household... appliance? ...accessory? ... accoutrement? How about "necessity!" That's right... television! The central part of any home. It's been your main source of information long before you had Alexa, a smartphone or even a computer. It's been an entertainer, a weather forecaster, a news stream... even a baby sitter. And it's been a teacher. You learned a lot from television. Things you know to be inarguable facts Things you would never question or debate or contradict. You learned them from television, so they must be true.

Before the generation that grew up on Sesame Street, we learned from other shows we saw on television. Like sitcoms. And Westerns. And cartoons. These sources were not only entertaining, but informative, offering timeless facts that could be used in everyday life and would form the foundations for a solid education of general knowledge.
For instance...
  • Goats eat tin cans.
  • You know your house is infested with mice when you find a small arch-shaped hole perfectly cut into your baseboard. Sometimes, there's even a hinged door in the hole.
  • If you find yourself sinking in quicksand (and, honestly, who hasn't?), you know not to thrash around, because you will only sink faster.
  • All bartenders in the Old West, served all drinks by sliding them down the bar.
  • Also in the Old West, bad guys and drunks regularly fell or were tossed into horse troughs.
  • The natural enemy of the roadrunner is the coyote
  • Rabbits' favorite food is carrots
  • Villains are easy to spot by their top hats and handlebar mustaches.
  • Men openly tell their problems to bartenders... even ones they just met in a bar they've been in for the first time.
  • If you are lost in the desert, you will see a giant pool of water surrounded by scantily-clad harem girls coolly waving feathers on long sticks. This will disappear in a few seconds... around the time you start drinking a handful of sand.
  • When you are faced with a difficult decision, small versions of yourself — dressed like a devil and an angel — will appear on your shoulders to advise you.
  • Cannibals cooked missionaries in a huge cast iron pot, while they were still alive and fully clothed. They also added sliced vegetables with very little resistance.
  • The best remedy for a black eye is a steak. A large one. With a bone in it.
  • A toothache is relieved by tying a white cloth around your entire head, securing it with a knot at the top.
  • If the toothache persists, the offending tooth can be easily and safely removed by tying a string to it, tying the other end to a doorknob and, then, slamming the door shut.
  • Amnesia is caused — and cured — by a blow to the head.
  • When a woman faints, she is pregnant. Then she will soon require a steady diet of pickles and ice cream.
  • Thinking about the past is always preceded by swirly vision. Thoughts about the past are in black & white.
  • Listening through a glass placed against a wall instantly makes a conversation in the next room crystal clear.
  • Sprinkling salt on a bird's tail renders it unable to fly.
  • Bosses hire, fire and rehire employees on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis.
  • Policemen have exaggerated Irish accents.
  • If you dig a hole deep enough, you will strike oil. If you continue to dig, you will reach China.
  • A far-fetched, implausible, outlandish story is much preferred to the truth.
  • If you wear a thin mask with eye holes punched out, no one will recognize you.
  • The smartest person who ever lived was Albert Einstein. The worst was Benedict Arnold.
  • Mules are stubborn.
  • Every house at the end of a block with a broken window and an overgrown lawn is haunted. A kid will invariably hit a baseball into it.
  • In every wedding ceremony, the officiant must ask if anyone objects to the couple getting married and encourages them to speak now, as this will be their only opportunity ever. Someone will undoubtedly take them up on the offer.
  • People who are drowning go under the water three times... and are kind enough to count each one off for you. If you do save someone from drowning, they can be easily revived by pumping the water out of them. This can be accomplished by pressing on their stomach. The water will spout from the victim's mouth like a fountain. If this doesn't work, the victim's arm can be used as a pump for the same purpose.
  • Female teachers are either bitter and mean spinsters or alluring supermodels. There is no in-between.
I'm sure there are many, many more life lessons that came from television. If I've forgotten any, a refresher course is readily available in the form of reruns. I know I'll be watching. There's always room to expand your education.