What Was Your Worst Fashion Crime? April 30, 2012

If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s my personal style.  After all, I was voted best dressed in high school and in my freshman and sophomore years of college (okay, it was just for my dorm floor, but still it was an honor.)  Despite this, I still could not escape some of the terrible trends of the 80’s.  I wore some neon green nylon knee highs, rolled down over my tights. I rolled my jeans tight at the ankles.  I wore coveted Coca-Cola brand rugby shirts.  However, despite all of these embarrassing styles, I am most appalled by what I call my “Matronly Moments”.  Allow me to explain.

When I was in my early twenties, I had about the best body of my life.  Back then there was no such thing as Spanx, but even if there were I sure didn’t need them.  If I could go back and give my younger self some style advice from the future, it would be this:  “I don’t care if grunge is the rage! Quit wearing flannel shirts and start showing off that smokin’ body more!  And please put down that navy blazer!”

The navy blue blazer.  For a preppy like me, it seemed like a fabulous idea at the time.  It was a classic Ralph Lauren double-breasted blazer with a huge gold crest on the pocket as well as four rows of eight shiny brass buttons.  I wore it to my first job out of college.  I knew I had made a mistake when one of my co-workers asked me if I was a cruise director.  Sadly, she was right.  I suddenly felt like I was missing my clip board and activities sheet and was late for shuffleboard on the Lido Deck.  I felt like a giant a-hole, just like Danny Noonen did that day when Judge Smails asked him to stop by the yacht club for his boat christening.  What was wrong with me?  Why was I wearing something that was clearly meant for someone who eats dinner at 4:30 and calls a couch a “davenport”?

And then it hit me.  This was not the first time I had commited this fashion crime, and unfortunately there was way too much evidence of it.  I’m talking about my senior pictures.  Whenever my husband sees my hair in said pictures, he starts singing Flock of Seagulls songs.  (I can’t even retaliate and make fun of his horrible 70’s and 80’s style because he was pretty poor as a kid – and that would just be mean to make fun of his sleeveless tee shirts.)    That’s right:  except for the picture in my tennis outfit, my senior pictures looked like I had raided Mrs. Bluth’s wardrobe (aka Jessica Walter from Arrested Development.  Google it.)  There I was adorned in a ridiculous high necked formal, lacey top, as if the mother-of-the-bride section in the Jessica McClintock store had puked on me.  My other choice was a silk top that belonged to my grandmother.  Yes, you read that right.  I was wearing grandma’s blouse in my senior picture.  The real kicker was that every single outfit was peach, right down to my tennis skirt.  Why didn’t anyone intervene and stop this madness?  I’m all for modesty and taste, but this was ridiculous.

Unfortunately, those senior pictures are going to stay up on my parents’ wall for quite a while.  I better get used to hearing my husband’s rendition of “I Ran So Far Away.”

So tell me…what is YOUR worst fashion crime?


Best TV Show Opening Montages April 9, 2012

Once upon a time, the TV show opening montage was the norm.  Now, much like the musical montages of 80’s movies, TV show opening credits are becoming more and more obsolete.  I for one am a little disappointed.  Much like the Monday Night Football theme, these opening credits serve a fun and meaningful purpose in TV viewing: to get you really pumped up for the show.  No matter how tacky they were, there was a familiar comfort in them.  I liked singing the themes to The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island, just as I enjoyed watching Blossom dance around in her flowered hats.

Luckily there are still some shows out there that embrace the opening montage.  Here are my favorites from both the past and present:

Freaks and Geeks – What better way to capture the awkwardness of high school than to show school picture day…in the days before digital cameras.  Those pictures were a metaphor for high school life.  Sometimes it was full of forced smiles, sometimes you just weren’t ready, sometimes you were a goofball, and sometimes you discovered that once you made a bad mistake, there were no “retakes”.

Watch here:

The Muppet Show – This is the ultimate variety show opening, complete with a large singing chorus, an orchestra and two grumpy old men making wise-ass comments in the balcony.

The Simpsons The Simpsons opener is fun for a few reasons.  First, I like to see what Bart writes on the classroom chalkboard each week.  (A sampling of my favorites:  Beans are neither fruit nor musical, and No one wants to hear about my sciatica.)  Secondly, I like to see how the opening montage will end; that is, what the Simpson family will encounter when they all head to their living room couch.  Considering that the show just reached its 500th episode, the creative forces behind their clever opening deserve a lot of credit.

Booker – What, you don’t remember BookerBooker was cop show spin-off from Fox’s already popular 21 Jumpstreet. The biggest appeal of Booker was its hottie star, Richard Grieco.  He had the hair, the dimples, the body and the ultra coolness (complete with a motorcycle and leather jacket, natch). He was Johnny Depp without the idiosynchrosies.  Brilliantly obvious in pandering to the core female demographic, Grieco preens and poses in front of the camera, giving us ladies a little smirk while “Hot in the City” plays in the background.  Plot?  Who cares?

Entourage – From the moment the opening guitar riff of Jane’s Addiction’s Superhero plays, I am hooked.  As the cast members cruise the streets ofHollywood in an old school convertible (on their way to the latest hot spot), famous celebrity hangouts are cleverly emblazoned with the cast members’ names.  It makes me want to be young, rich and famous.

Weeds – Weeds is one crazy show.  During every episode I am torn between laughter and a feeling that can only be described as “holy shit that is totally messed up”.  I guess that’s what makes a good black comedy.  The earlier years featured a catchy, folksy little diddy called “Little Boxes”. The satirical song bashes suburban conformity and its tract houses made of “ticky tacky” that “all look just the same.”  In later episodes, a different singer or band with completely different musical styles would perform the song each week.  It’s been covered by Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and Elvis Costello, among several others.  Very cool.

Dynasty – Dynasty’s opener is one of my favorites because it simply exudes everything fantastic about the 80’s:  tacky excess, shoulder pads, regal entrances down long staircases and cat fights while donning Bob Mackie.

Twin Peaks – I know that Twin Peaks got a lot of crap for being way too weird and confusing, but I was one of those people who hung in there until the bitter end.  I was sad to see it go, and I appreciated every moment of David Lynch’s eerie series.  I used to watch it in the dark in order to freak myself out with every glimpse of “Bob”, the devil persona who could supposedly move from body to body.  Lynch had a gift for taking the strangest things out of that crazy head of his and translating them onto the screen.  I am mesmerized by composer Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting “Laura Palmer’s Theme”.  Lynch clearly understood that the right music was essential for show’s dark mood.

The Cosby Show – Okay, year one was pure rubbish.  But then someone realized they had to kick it up a notch, and The Cosby Show’s opening montage was a highly anticipated yearly event, akin to Superbowl commercials and in my case, back-to-school shopping.  The concept was simple:  each year the show’s instrumental theme (called “Kiss Me”) would be tweaked to a different musical style.  This was then matched to a complementary backdrop wherein each impeccably dressed cast member would dance for a bit next to Bill Cosby.  Each one was so creative and well done that each year America wondered, “What are they going to do this year?”  My favorite was the Apollo Theater theme in Season 6.

Buck Rogers – If Dynasty portrayed everything wonderfully tacky about 80’s excess, then Buck Rogers represented everything wonderfully tacky about 80’s sci fi.  Gil Gerard and Erin Gray really rocked those futuristic jumpsuits.


I’ve Gone Hollywood, Part 3 of 3 (AKA OHMYGOD I MET JOEL MCHALE!) April 1, 2012

Day Five:  Just in case we didn’t see too many celebrities walking down the street or sitting next to us at restaurants, we had a back-up plan.  That is, we scheduled events where celebrities were a sure thing.

First up was a visit to the filming of The Soup (one of my favorite shows) starring Joel McHale.  Everyone knows that there is only one thing better than celebrities, and that is making fun of celebrities.  McHale and his team of writers have this down to an art form, and for that I thank them.  (Again, another dream job of mine.)

The Soup’s studio is really a quite smallish room room with orange chairs, a huge camera in a the middle, a large green screen in the front and two monitors on each side (to show clips from different TV shows).  The audience is small, maybe 60 people at the most, and it includes a few cast members from the show Community which Joel also stars in (where does this guy find the time to do all this and still appear in stand-up at every casino within a 100 mile radius of L.A.?) 

When Joel actually appears, I am smitten and mesmerized.  He is taller, thinner and better looking in person.  Before the actual taping begins, he runs in place to pump himself up.  And here’s what I learned:

  • People reading from teleprompters screw up.  A lot.  That smooth delivery you see on TV may have taken many, many takes.  A twenty-one minute show may take well over an hour to tape.  In McHale’s case, he flips off the camera and swears every time he messes up.  Not in an angry way, but more in a goofy way.  Then he entertains us by cracking jokes until everyone is ready for the next take.
  • The original jokes may not work.  If it sounded good on paper but not so much out loud, then a break is taken while an alternative joke is either selected or written right there on the spot.  And then you have to wait for the teleprompter to be changed.
  • A lawyer is present to catch little things, like revealing the Apple logo on air (that’s a no-no).  One segment had to be re-shot with a newly-covered iPad.  Joel’s response:  “As if people at home are going to wonder, ‘Hmmm what’s that he’s using?’””
  • That guy you always hear laughing the loudest during The Soup?  That’s Tom, the stage manager, who sits right next to the camera.  He’s also in charge of keeping Joel in line when he gets too goofy and off track.
  • Some people will laugh at anything a comedian says, even when it’s not funny or even meant to be funny.  Dane Cook at Madison Square Garden, I’m especially talking to you.

Joel McHale was very nice and stayed to talk to us and take pictures.  I was so nervous and sweaty you’d think I was about to play a game of dodgeball against Chuck Lidell. When he heard we were from Wisconsin, he asked if we were from Door County and then asked if we liked clam bakes.  I had to correct him and say it was fish boils.  I’ll forgive him though; knowing Door County is pretty impressive.

Me trying not to hyperventilate while meeting Joel McHale

Day Five, Evening:  Every March the Paley TV Festival hosts casts from several popular television programs.  Each night of the festival features a different show, and some nights there are special VIP parties.  We were lucky enough to get tickets to see the entire cast of Modern Family (my favorite show!) plus its creator, Steve Levitan.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Out of the entire cast, Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet talked the most.  Sofia Vergara talked the least.
  • Like her character Gloria, Sofia Vergara hates working with the dog on the show.  “They gheev heem the doggie treats all day…and thain hees breath smells like the doggie treats.”
  • When Ty Burrell gets nervous he blinks both eyes constantly; whenever he would answer a question from the moderator and all eyes were on him, we could see this.
  • Sarah Hyland (Hailey) proclaimed she was just “happy to have a head over her roof.”  This garnered a few chuckles from the audience.
  • “Luke” proclaimed that “everyone is always messing with my hair.”
  • You know that episode where Claire slips and falls over spilled eggs in the kitchen?  Not part of the script.  However, since it was realistic and she didn’t want to waste such a good fall, Julie Bowen still said her next line.
  • A gay fan told Eric Stonestreet this story:  “When I came out to my mom, she asked me if I was a Cam or a Mitchell.”

    The cast of Modern Family at the Paley TV Festival

Day Six:  As our Hollywood trip came to an end, we celebrated with some authentic Hollywood cuisine:  Pink’s.  The wait in line was worth it.  Check out the processed goodness in these chili cheese dogs.  I hope my thighs forgive me some day.


After that meal, we rolled ourselves back to The Grove for more shopping and a movie.  However, we could also kill some time by watching the filming of Extra, the Hollywood gossip show.  The hosts are the incredibly beautiful Maria Menounos and hunky dimple boy Mario “AC Slater” Lopez.  Their job is to look good and show up to read from the teleprompter while everyone stands and admires them.  Here are the beautiful ones in action:

Mario Lopez checking texts in between his strenuous takes on “Extra”

The lovely Maria Menounos taping “Extra”

Well that’s it for my Hollywood tale.  Until next time…Niederkorn out.