Author: The Retro Rambler

I'm the Retro Rambler, and this is my online home where I relive all the stuff that made my childhood cool. I've never really grown up, and don't really want to either. Enjoy your stay here, and come back often to see the latest memories we're posting. Drop me a comment when something strikes you and we'll chat about it. Retro Ramblings....your childhood lives here.

Up All Night: Garfield in Paradise (1986)

Up All Night

 

Welcome back to the Retro Rambling’s Up All Night Theater!  We’ve been on a summer kick here during these dog days of August, and we roll on with that theme again tonight.  But this time, we’re presenting an animated selection.  Garfield had a lot of tv specials through the years, and this one was one of my favorites.  Garfield and family head to Hawaii for quite an adventure, and if you’ve never seen this one before, hold on tight.  Let’s get to it!

Drop some thoughts and a rating in the comments section below.

 

Up All Night: Computer Beach Party (1987)

Up All Night

 

Welcome back to Retro Rambling’s Up All Night Theater!  We’re keeping the summer theme going for a little while longer since it’s still August and all, and tonight’s selection is another cheesy 80’s B-Movie.  Tonight, we’re showing Computer Beach Party from 1987.  It’s about some greedy locals are trying to turn some beach property into a tourist attraction, and a computer expert sets out to use is knowledge of computers–along with the help of several local “beach bunnies”–to stop them.

As usual, it’s no fun watching alone, so drop some thoughts and maybe your rating in the comments section.  Let’s get this summer show on the road!

 

Forgotten Food: Fast Food Edition

 

If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written before, then you already know that I associate nostalgic feelings and memories with food more than any other subject.  I’ve written several pieces in the past diving into the subject, and today, I’m going a little deeper.  This isn’t going to be like the mega post, Back When Pizza Hut Was an Experience, or an angry diatribe like Why Wendy’s Ain’t Like It Used to Be.  No, this is going to be some quick hits about some old fast food choices that I loved, but are no longer available.  As you also know, there are plenty more foods that I miss, but for today, let’s just hit these bygone classics.


 

McDLT

The McDonald’s McDLT gets mentioned on it’s fair share of fondly remembered foods list, and for good reason. Of all the great, and horrible, things to ever grace the menu of McDonalds, the McDLT was one of the best items they created.

It was a burger in similar size as Burger King’s Whopper sandwich, and featured mostly the same ingredients. A quarter pound beef patty, lettuce, tomato, mayo, cheese, pickles, and ketchup on a toasted sesame seed bun. The beauty of the McDLT though was it’s packaging. It came in one of McDonald’s signature styrofoam containers. But this one was slightly different. It featured two separate compartments instead of one.

On one side, the bottom bun and burger patty rested, while on the other was the rest of the toppings and the top bun. This allowed the hot parts to remain separate from the cold parts until you were ready to put it together and eat. And that was the brilliance of it all. A fresh tasting McDLT when the hot patty met the cold toppings.  What I could never figure out though, was why the slice of cheese was included on the cold side.  To me it would have made much more sense to put it on top of the patty on the hot side so it could get all melty.  But apparently, I’m not a genius like the burger builders at McDonald’s.

It was released in the early 80’s to much fanfare, but was eventually pulled in 1990 due to pressure from environmental groups protesting their use of the styrofoam containers. Once the divided container was gone, so was the magic of this burger. It was later re-released as the Big ‘n’ Tasty burger, but without the separated ingredients, the burger fell flat.

 

More Forgotten Food  |  The Time McDonald’s Tried to Sell McPasta

 

When I first discovered it as a kid, I was at the age where I was getting a little old for Happy Meals, and found the McDLT to be a perfectly acceptable replacement for it. I’m guessing it was basically the novelty of it that turned me on to it, but it was a great burger in it’s own right so that kept me coming back for more.

As a side note, McDonald’s lost a little luster to me with the fall of those original containers. Each container was a different color to represent what was held inside, and even the McNuggets had a little compartment built-in to hold the sauce cup. I understand the environmental impact and agree with the decision to stop using them, but dang, they looked cool, and figure prominently in my memories of McDonald’s and childhood in general.

The timing of the fall of the McDLT kind of lines up perfectly with my ascent to teenager from childhood.  Maybe that’s why it holds such a special place in my memories, and why I miss it so.


Hardee's Patty Melt

Back in 1992, Hardee’s stumbled across a major hit when it introduced it’s now legendary Frisco Burger.  They combined grilled sourdough bread (in a round slice) with a 1/4 lb burger patty, two slices of Swiss cheese, bacon, mayo, and tomatoes and turned them into a culinary masterpiece.  After strong sales upon release, they were looking to duplicate that success. Enter the New York Rye Patty Melt.

Introduced roughly 4 months after the launch of the Frisco burger, the New York Patty Melt was the heir apparent to their first hit.  Unfortunately, it was not to be. Sales of the Patty Melt didn’t come close to those of the Frisco burger, and it was dropped from the menu about 6 months after it’s introduction.  But man, that was a great six months.

The New York Rye Patty Melt borrowed from its famous cousin and used a regional favorite bread by using New York Rye.  Sliced the same way as the Frisco (round), it too was grilled and paired with a 1/4 lb beef patty. A layer of melted cheese, along with soft grilled onions finished off this burger.  Like most kids, I wasn’t a big fan of onions, but on this burger, they fit right in. But for me, the real star of this taste sensation was the rye bread. I had never had it before, but this burger moved the bread up my list of favorites in a hurry.

As is the case when doing a piece like this, I was quite disappointed when I went to order it one time only to be told that it was no longer available.  If my Father hadn’t been standing there beside me, my fourteen year old self may have let out a string of curse words aimed in the cashier’s direction. Luckily however, the Frisco Burger was still available, and it ranked pretty high on my list back then too.  But for me, the Frisco Burger was always the Sundance Kid to the New York Patty Melt’s Butch Cassidy.

These days, the Frisco Burger is still on the menu, and since it has been a top item for over 26 years, Burger has gotten in on the action with their Bacon Swiss King burger.  If you would happen to be wondering how it compares to the original Frisco burger, you can check out the comparison video my daughter and I filmed for her food review Youtube channel.


Chilito

Ah, the Chili Cheese Burrito from Taco Bell.  A lot of people in this world only know it by that name, but back in my day, it was known as “The Chilito”.

It featured chili flavored beef, Taco Bell’s iconic red sauce, and melted cheese rolled up in a soft flour tortilla and would run you anywhere from $0.69 to $0.99, depending on the time frame when you enjoyed them.  For me, that time frame was the mid-90’s after I started driving. My friends and I on small budgets, due to part-time jobs, would load up on these due to their cheapness on nights of cruising around.  Way back then, you could count on Taco Bell to deliver the goods, not only in taste, but in value as well.

 

More Forgotten Food  |  KFC’s Modern Chicken Littles Have Nothing on the Originals From the 1980’s

 

Taco Bell had these available from the late 80’s through the early 90’s before discontinuing them as a regular menu item.  Some franchises decided to keep them however, and you can still find them on the menu in roughly 12% of Taco Bell stores nationwide.  A while back though, while traveling in North Carolina, I was in a Taco Bell that had a poster up celebrating the triumphant return of the Chilito.  Unfortunately though, I didn’t even notice the poster until I had already placed my order.  Maybe I should have placed a second order, with which I might could have recaptured that magical taste and feeling of the Chilito.  Or, maybe I would have been disappointed by this newer version at a much higher price.  I decided to let things be, and wait until another time to sample the modern Chilito.  I still haven’t, and am not sure I should.  Sometimes the memories are better than what you find today.

Now, at least I stop at just writing about missing the Chilito, but here’s a dude who wrote a whole song about Taco Bell taking it from the menu:


McDonald's Super Hero Burger

Historically, the Big Mac has always been the largest burger on McDonald’s menu.  But for one glorious month in 1995, it played second fiddle to the Super Hero Burger.  With it’s 3 (that’s right, 3!) burger patties on a hoagie length bun, with two different slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo….this sucker was a monster.

The Super Hero burger had two promotional tie-ins attached to it.  First and foremost, it was available during the release of the movie Batman Forever, and Batman, Robin, Riddler, and Two-Face all figure prominently in the advertising spots for this burger.  Secondly, 1995 was the year that McDonald’s released a different burger every month, and this was the Burger of the Month.

I was driving by this point in life, so that meant I spent a fair amount of time “cruising” through town.  Most nights, a stop by the local Mickey D’s was how we ended our night, and for that month that this super burger was on the menu, it was what we ordered.   We probably could have kept this item on the menu all by ourselves based on how many of them we consumed, but as expected, when the month ended, so did the Super Hero Burger.  Alas, another fast food item was added to my list of fondly remembered food from back in the day.

I’m not the only super fan of the Super Hero Burger, and someone over at DudeFoods.com got tired of waiting for McDonald’s to bring it back, so they tried their hand at creating their own.  You can watch the video here.


In closing, I want to say that I’m thankful to have even gotten to try all of these items in the first place.  My dad would take us out to eat on the weekends when he was in town, and that provided ample opportunity to indulge in so many great menu items from a variety of places.  And as the saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

So tell me, what extinct fast food items do you miss and wish was still around?  What memories do you associate with them?  We all have a story, and I would love to hear yours!  Just drop me a line in the comments below, and tell me that story.  Heck, I probably have memories of YOUR favorite too.  Also, did you have any experiences with the items on my list above?  Tell me that too!  The next time I talk about food here, it’ll probably be about dining experiences that no longer exist, or my favorite snacks, or something else of the sort.  But until that time comes, hit me up in the comments below, or on Twitter @yesterdayville.

Up All Night: Summer Job (1989)

Up All Night

 

Welcome to the Up All Night theater!  Even though a lot of schools have started their new school year, it’s still summer time.  So what better way to kill a night in the summer than by watching an old B-movie with a fun summer theme?  That’s a rhetorical question.  There is no better way.  So with that, for tonight’s Up All Night feature, I proudly present the 1989 movie, Summer Job.  After you watch, leave some thoughts or a rating in the comments.

Summer Job is about a less than elite, group of college co-eds that pursue sexual adventure, and bits of revenge, and actually do some of the work they are expected to do at a resort over the summer.

 

Retro on the Web

Welcome to the first, yet latest edition of Retro on the Web.  I say that because this is the first installment to be labeled as “Retro on the Web”, but it’s just a fancy new title for my old Picks of the Week.  So anyway, this is where I turn you on to fun retro content from around the web that you may not have seen yet.  The majority of this post is links to other places, so as a disclaimer, let me remind you that the links to outside sites open in a new tab or window.  With all that said, let’s take a look at whats going on in the world of retro this week.

 

Rank Em

The Retro Rambler joins the Rediscover the 80’s Podcast to Talk About Our Favorite Television Shows That Debuted in 1988

So last week, I joined our good friend Jason Gross (@rd80s on Twitter) from Rediscover the 80’s on an episode of his podcast to go through our favorite television series that debuted in 1988.  Upon getting prepared to record the show, I found that 1988 was not the best year for new shows, but somehow we managed to each put a list of 5 together and turned out what I thought was a pretty fun show.  A lot of nostalgia shows through, and some shows we are actually quite passionate about.  You can check out the episode on your favorite podcast service, or you can go directly to it hereJason’s Rediscover the 80’s Podcast is always a good listen, and he has several themes that he rotates through including Rank ‘Em episodes, Memory Jogger, and his Rediscovered series.  I highly suggest subscribing to his podcast feed so you don’t miss anything.

It’s not the first time that Jason and I have collaborated on projects.  Last year, he and I each did a piece on our sites where we ranked our Five Favorite G.I. Joe Cartoon episodes.  You can check those out here:  Mine and his.  He has also been a regular guest on my Retro Round Table pieces, and you can read through them all at your leisure here.

And if hearing me guest star on podcasts gets your motor running, check out the show I did with Dave on the Banzai Retro Club podcast talking about old non-sports trading cards.  It’s a hoot.

 

Hoju Koolander Has an Awesome Time on a Classic 80’s Inspired Sleep Over

So my good friend from over at Retro-Daze, Hoju Koolander (@hojukoolander on Twitter) , recently traveled to the west coast for a rad retro weekend at an 80’s inspired sleepover with another fellow Retro-Daze alumni Jeff.  There was lots of pizza eating, Nintendo playing, cereal enjoyment, comic book talk, and late night movie fun to be had by all.  Read about the whole experience in Hoju’s great piece, Rad Retro Weekend.  Stay tuned, as there is a part 2 coming as well.

As you may already know, Hoju is also a regular participant in the Retro Round Tables, and he hosts one of the best podcasts on the market, SequelQuest Podcast, where he and his buddies conceive sequels to favorite movies that never had one.  He has also reviewed a couple of old wrestling flicks here at Retro Ramblings, and you should check those out as well:  Grunt! The Wrestling Movie Review  |  Body Slam is Rock and Roll Wrestling

 

It’s Masters of the Universe Month at HorrorMovie BBQ!

Everyone’s favorite fun retro horror writer Chad has turned his online home, Horror Movie BBQ, into Eternia for the month of August.  What does that mean you ask?  Well, he is focusing the entire month on things that revolve around The Masters of the Universe, and this year, he has a focus on the bad guys.  The MOTU universe is filled with iconic and interesting baddies, so there is a lot to work with.  He has already put out some great stuff that have brought a ton of memories flooding back as I’ve been reading.  Hit the links below to what he’s already dropped, and follow him on Twitter so you don’t miss anything else from this great month of content.

Welcome to MOTU Month 2018!
A Trip to the Slime Pit
Stinkor Smells Like a Winner
Mosquitor Doesn’t Suck

 

Summer Vacation Rolls On at The Rad Years

The Rad Years is a retro blog that I only discovered recently, and boy did I pick the right time to hit the place!  For over the last month, there have been articles galore dropping that all have summer vacation as the theme, and each one has been dripping with pure nostalgia.  I’ve read most of what has been put out thus far, and have identified with, and enjoyed all of it.  If you’ve not discovered this site yet, do yourself a favor and hit it up ASAP.  Here’s some links to some of the summer articles I’ve enjoyed the most thus far.  There are plenty more there to choose from though, and check them out on Twitter too.

Saturdays in the Summer
Summer Blockbusters:  My Obsession With Dick Tracy
Friday Nights
Comic Book Shopping

 

Press Your Luck Michael Larson

Big Money No Whammies!  The Michael Larson Story

This one is found right here at Retro Ramblings, and is my latest piece.  I tell the tale of Michael Larson, who in 1984 went on the game show Press Your Luck and turned their world upside down with the most amazing bit of game show play you will ever see.  It caused quite the scandal behind the scenes at CBS, and caused them to lock the episodes in their vault for almost 20 years.  You’ll also learn about the downward spiral of Michael Larson following his appearance on the show.  Read the whole thing here.

And since you are already here, you can check out some of my other recent hits:

Remembering Micro Machines
Opening a Pack of Jaws 3-D Trading Cards From 1983
Lawn Darts – One of the Most Dangerous Toys of All Time
Going on Wagon Train in the 1980’s
A Visual History of McDonald’s Clam Styrofoam Packaging

 

The Best of the Rest

There is a lot more great retro and nostalgiac content floating around the web, and here is the rest of what I’ve enjoyed recently.

8 Most Offensive Zero Heroes Trading Cards From 1983 – Rediscover the 80’s
Check Out Atari’s Video Games:  A Public Perspective From 1982 – Retroist
RoboCop is a Violent, Brilliant Thrill Ride – Retro Injection
Alf is Returning From Melmac in a Reboot – MeTV
Family Ties:  A Hit TV Show All On It’s Own – Click Americana
6 Candy Myths We All Foolishly Believed Growing Up – MeTV
The Pepsi ‘SEX’ Can From 1990 – Dinosaur Dracula
80’s Lessons We Should Take Note Of – Like Totally 80s
Leonardo DiCaprio is Set to Produce a New Reboot of The Facts of Life – MeTV
Target Has Released New Throwback Board Games – Do You Remember?
The Fantastic and Troubled History of the Video Phone – Flashbak
Little People Love – Plaid Stallions
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue – Saturday Mornings Forever
10 Colorful Facts About Munsters Go Home – MeTV
How Your Favorite Stores Got Their Interesting Names – Do You Remember?

And Since It’s “Back to School” Time In Most Places, Here Are Some School Days Classics

My High School Soundtrack – Rediscover the 80’s
Trapper Keeper: The Ultimate 80’s School Supply – Rediscover the 80’s
Retro School Supplies – Hoju Koolander
17 Vintage Back to School Ads You Would Never See Today – MeTV
19 Totally 80’s School Supplies That Will Take You Back to the Reagan Era – MeTV
15 Cartoon Lunch Boxes That Every Kid Brought to School Back in the Day – MeTV
Memory Lane:  Back to Grade School – Do You Remember

 

Well that’s it for this edition of Retro on the Web.  For next time, if you know of something you think I would enjoy and should highlight here, drop me a comment with the link, or hit me up on Twitter @yesterdayville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Money No Whammies! The Michael Larson Story

Press Your Luck Michael Larson

 

A few weeks ago, Jason Gross released another episode of his Rediscover the 80’s podcast.  Along with frequent co-host Wyatt, they reminisced about their favorite game shows from their youth, and Press Your Luck came up.  Jason started relaying to Wyatt bits and pieces of the story of Michael Larson and his incredible performance on an episode from the mid-80’s.  I remember the episode well, and had since learned more about, so I thought I would put a piece together to detail the incredible story of how one man rose up and conquered a game show.  So, for your approval, I submit to you Big Money No Whammies:  The Michael Larson Story.


Michael larson

Back in May of 1984, a 35-year-old former ice-cream truck driver from Lebanon Ohio named Michael Larson flew to California to audition for the CBS game show, Press Your Luck.  Michael was no ordinary contestant though.  He was a man who had spent quite a lot of time studying the show, and was more than prepared when he got his break to appear on the show.

Most people who get to be contestants on game shows spend a fair amount of time preparing for them.  Larson had went well beyond what a normal contestant would though.  He had filled his home with televisions that he never turned off.  He would watch for hours on end, trying to find ways to get rich, spending most of his time focusing on infomercial schemes and game shows.  After searching for countless hours, he finally found his angle.  He would “press his luck” to earn his fortune.

The premise of the Press Your Luck game show was simple.  There was a rectangular game board that was filled with squares that indicated different cash amounts.  The contestants would take turns “spinning” the game board.  The squares would light up in what seemed to be a random order, and the player would press a button to stop the “spin”.  Lights would illuminate the square they stopped on, and they won whatever amount was in that square.  In addition to cash prizes, there were also other prizes like vacations, pool tables, or sailboats for example.  The squares to stay away from though, were the “Whammy” squares that featured a little cartoon drawing of a devil that would wipe out their entire winnings.  The players would amass as much money and prizes as they could, try to keep their turns going by winning as many free spins as possible, and trying to avoid Whammies at all costs.

Press Your Luck Game Board

But after watching the show for hours on end, Larson realized that the blinking board wasn’t exactly as unpredictable as it appeared to be.  With the use of VCR technology and a whole lot of pausing and rewinding, he discovered that the board followed five distinct patterns, which he was able to memorize.  He knew that if he could only get onto the game show, he would be able to control the board in any way he wanted….stopping on big money and free spins without landing on the dreaded Whammies….and he could make a fortune.

Larson didn’t really have any money though, so to even get on the show, he had to borrow air fare from his home in central Ohio to California, and he bought the shirt he wore on the show at a thrift store for just $0.65.  With that part of the plan all set, all he had to worry about was actually getting picked to be on the show.  He had watched more than enough episodes to know what kind of contestant the producers were looking for.  He knew that he couldn’t look cocky or confident, so during the screening process, he acted perky, excited, and self-deprecating.  The act worked, because he made it onto the show the same day he auditioned.  He continued his act from his audition onto the show….being overly excited, bouncing in his seat, cheering on his fellow competitors, and even taking shots at himself when asked personal questions by the host, Peter Tomarken.  At one point, Tomarken asked Larson what he’d do with the money if he won, and Larson responded, “hopefully I’ll make enough so I won’t have to drive the ice-cream truck next summer.”

Michael Larson

After the first round of generic questions that were always asked in order for the contestants to earn spins, Larson was the first to get his turn on the board.  On his first spin, he stopped on a Whammy.  This was likely part of his plan to avoid suspicion since he had no money to lose to a Whammy.  On his next spins, he collected a modest $2500.  His two opponents on the show, Ed Long and Janie Litras, earned $4,080 and $4,608 respectively.  That ended the first round, and after a commercial break, it would be Larson’s turn on the board once again.  He wouldn’t be so modest with this set of spins.

On his first spin, he hit one of the best spots on the board:  $4,000 plus a Free Spin.  He followed that up with $5,000 and a Free Spin.  Next was $1,000 and a Free Spin.  And he just kept going.  He spun the board 40 consecutive times, and never hit a Whammy.  Not only was he not hitting Whammies, he kept purposely landing on the big money squares that also contained Free Spins.  Normally, contestants would hit a Whammy somewhere between 5 and 10 spins, but Larson shattered that average with his amazing performance.  When he finally decided to pass his remaining spins, he had racked up $102,851 and a couple of trips and other prizes.  The cash amount was so large, the show had to drop the dollar sign from his podium display, because it was only designed for 5 digits of earnings, but Larson had shocked the system and ran his winnings up to 6 digits.

Michael larson

For his first 15 spins or so, the mood on the set was electric.  The crowd was cheering him on to keep spinning, his fellow contestants were shocked and amazed at his performance, and host Peter Tomarken was simply astounded.  But you know who wasn’t excited?  The producers back in the control room, that’s who.  It didn’t take very long for the producers to suspect that not all was on the up and up.  They quickly assessed that Larson wasn’t just lucky, but that he had some kind of system in play.  Unfortunately for them, there wasn’t anything they could do about it because as far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any rules.

As Larson continued to rack up the big money and free spins, the mood of his fellow contestants changed.  You could see they were losing their patience as all they could do was sit there and watch him play.

 

Press Your Luck Scandal

Michael’s turn took so long, that one single half-hour episode couldn’t contain his entire turn, so it had to be broken up into a two-part episode.  Even though they weren’t happy with his performance, the producers knew that this was newsworthy, and could potentially be a ratings grabber if advertised correctly.  To have enough content from the game to completely fill two episodes, Tomarken recorded an interview with Larson.

Normally, winners on Press Your Luck were invited back on the following episode to defend their title, but that offer was not extended to Michael Larson.  CBS rules stated that any contestant who’d won more than $25,000 couldn’t come back.  That little rule robbed the world of seeing just how far Michael Larson could go.

The two episodes aired on Friday June 8, and Monday June 11, 1984.  That was the only time those episodes would see the light of day for almost 20 years.  CBS was so embarrassed by what had happened that they locked the episodes away in their vault.  In later years, when USA and the Game Show Network bought the syndication rights to air old episodes, CBS refused to let them air the Michael Larson shows.

So What Happened to Michael Larson After Press Your Luck?

Since Larson hadn’t really done anything illegal, he was allowed to keep his $110,237, of which he had to pay $30,000 in taxes.  After returning home, he put $30,000 into a real estate venture that ended up being a Ponzi Scheme, so he had quickly lost over half of his winnings.

In November of 1984, Larson hit on his next big money-making idea.  Everyday, a radio station in Dayton Ohio would host a contest where contestants could win a cool $30,000.  They would read off a set of serial numbers from a $1 bill, and if you could find the $1 bill with the matching number, you would be the winner.  Since the radio station allowed several days to find each bill and collect the winnings, Larson thought he had time to sort through plenty of them and find a winner.

Larson deposited the remainder of his Press Your Luck winnings into several banks, and then withdrew all of it in $1 bills.  He had so many bills that he bundled them, and stored them in trash bags and burlap sacks.Once he sat down and started sifting through bills looking for winners, it didn’t take long for him to figure out that it would take a week or more just to go through half the money he had on hand.  He put half of the money back in the bank, and kept about $40,000 on hand for the contest.

Eventually, staring at serial numbers all day can make you tired and cranky, so he and his female friend decided to go see friends at a Christmas party.  While they were at the party having a good time, Larson’s house was broken into and robbed, meaning all of that cash was stolen and now gone.  Larson suspected that his female friend had a hand in the robbery, and their relationship deteriorated quickly after that.  Eventually, after fearing for her life with Larson around, she kicked him out.

Larson bounced around from job to job after that, eventually ending up as an assistant manager of a Wal-Mart.  In 1995, he suddenly picked up and left Ohio.  Family and friends later discovered that he was under investigation for his part in a lottery scheme that robbed over 20,000 people out of over $3 million dollars.  He was never prosecuted for the crime, but eventually passed away of throat cancer in 1999.

Remember how I mentioned earlier that CBS locked the episodes away in their vault for almost 20 years?  Well, they finally agreed to let them air in 2003.  That year, the Game Show Network produced a documentary about Larson’s incredible game called Big Bucks:  The Press Your Luck Scandal, which included footage from those episodes.  

On the same night the documentary aired, GSN broadcast a special edition of their Press Your Luck revival series called Whammy!.  They invited back Larson’s competitors from 1984, Ed Long and Janie Litras.  The third contestant on  the show was Michael’s brother, James Larson.  And wouldn’t you know who won the pony….James Larson walked away the winner, leaving Long and Litras to feel disappointed at the hands of a Larson once again.

If you would like to relive the incredible series of events on the game show, you can watch both episodes below.

And why stop there?  Go ahead and watch the 2003 episode of Whammy! featuring Michael’s brother James.

Remembering Micro Machines

The 80’s probably spawned more cool toys than all other decades combined.  There were the heavy hitters like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Mask that everyone remembers, but then there are those toys that were totally awesome, but don’t get mentioned nearly as much.  One of those was Micro Machines.

 

micro machines

 

Micro Machines debuted from Galoob Toys in 1986, and hung around through the late 90’s.  Their claim to fame was the fact that they were 1/4 scale of Hot Wheels, and kids loved their extra small size.  Micro Machines came in a wide variety of vehicles that included cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, construction, planes, boats, There were also vehicles based on licensed properties such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Power Rangers, GI Joe, James Bond, and Indiana Jones.  For 3 – 4 years, they were the largest selling toy car line in the country, with dollar sales that exceeded the combined sales of Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Majorette!

Hot Wheels, only smaller. That’s not exactly true, but it’s what I though when I first saw Micro Machines. A friend of mine brought some to school, and I thought they were so cool, if for nothing else, that they were a lot easier to smuggle out of the house than actual Hot Wheels. But what I found when I got my first “collection” was that these were fine toys in just about any application.

 

Micro Machines

 

What I liked best about them, was that in the early years, you would get five vehicles per package. Instead of having to settle for one fire truck, you got five. Or maybe you got a fire truck plus other emergency vehicles to go along with it. You didn’t have to decide whether to get a bulldozer or a front end loader, but instead you got them both plus a dump truck, a concrete truck, and an excavator. It was a whole construction set in one package. Why settle for one fast corvette when you could get five from varying years. And while the cars may have been small, their play was as big as anything else on the market. They held up just as well as Hot Wheels did under my play conditions.

 

MORE TOYS  |  Five Fun Matchbox Toys

 

The play sets that went along with them were well designed too. They would transform from play sets to normal looking things like a can of car wax, or some other similar product. There were so many sets to choose from too. You had planes, ships, construction equipment, fast cars, service vehicles, army mobiles, and many others. I got older and lost interest in them just before they picked up the Star Wars license, but there were three lines that I favored over all the others.

The Semi Trucks they had were awesome. They came out a few years into the line and were a great addition, as you could round out your “city” with these.  There were flat beds, box trailers, and tankers of all different kinds.  Coming from a family whose Father drove a truck on occasion, it was cool to have these to mimic his job with.

 

Micro Machines Semi Trucks

 

Another was the addition of Micro Machines train sets. They were in scale with the rest of the line, and even came with their own tracks.  There were several different sets to choose from, each in their own color scheme and type of train.  I always wanted multiple sets just to have enough track to actually do more than a circle loop with.

 

Micro machines Trains

 

And last but not least were the monster trucks. All the popular ones of the day were available in either two or three packs, I can’t remember which, but I had a ton of them. Grave Digger, Carolina Crusher, Equalizer, Mad Dog, and many others were available for your car crushing needs. And again, these were in scale with the rest of the line, so you could line your cars up and run over them with the monster trucks.

 

Micro Machines Tuff Trax

 

Micro Machines was an awesome toy line, and a fun part of my childhood.  It doesn’t get the nostalgic attention that other popular lines from the 80’s do, but it will forever be one of my favorites.