Tag: 80’s

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.

Music Monday – Week of August 6

 

Music Monday

US Top 40 Singles for the Week Ending August 6th, 1983

Here’s what’s going on this week on the Top 40 chart…

  • The Police are still holding strong at #1.
  • The top 20 songs could be their own Best of the 80’s compilation album (I’ve seen worse on Spotify, trust me).
  • One song that is climbing the charts is “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. When I was a kid I always thought this was the weirdest song. The video being set in an English fold revival didn’t help any, either. Here’s the story behind the song:

Ivan Doroschuk, lead singer of the band, explained that “The Safety Dance” is a protest against bouncers stopping dancers pogo-ing to 1980s new wave music in clubs when disco was dying and new wave was up and coming. New wave dancing, especially pogo-ing, was different from disco dancing, because it was done individually instead of with partners and involved holding the torso rigid and thrashing about. To uninformed bystanders this could look dangerous, especially if pogo-ers accidentally bounced into one another. The bouncers did not like pogo-ing so they would tell pogo-ers to stop or be kicked out of the club. Thus, the song is a protest and a call for freedom of expression.

Go figger…

 

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.

 

Wax Pack Flashback: Jaws 3-D Trading Cards from 1983

Let’s go back in time and take a trip down memory lane for a Wax Pack Flashback.  This time, it’s Jaws 3-D trading cards from Topps, that came out in 1983 as part of the promotion for the movie.

Jaws 3-D

Jaws Wax Pack

Continue reading “Wax Pack Flashback: Jaws 3-D Trading Cards from 1983”

Opening a pack of Jaws 3-D Trading Cards from 1983

Since it’s Shark Week, I thought it would be a good time to open an old pack of Jaws 3-D trading cards from 1983.  These cards came out in conjunction with the movie, Jaws 3-D, which starred Louis Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid, and was shot in 3-D.  The cards likewise featured the 3-D technology to give them quite a gimmick.  Watch the video below and check them out!

Music Monday – Week of July 23rd

 

Music Monday

US Top 40 Singles for the Week Ending July 23rd, 1983

Here’s what’s going on this week on the Top 40 chart…

      • No movement in the top six songs. The Police are still kings of the chart for the third straight week.
      • Taco moves into the the Top 40 with “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. It’s a remake of the Irving Berlin song written in 1927 and originally performed by Fred Astaire.