All posts by Paul Stroessner

Cabbage Patch Kids

Riots. Stampedes. Beatings. Death and Destruction. No, I’m not describing a Mad Max movie, or about the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. This was the scene in malls and stores across the country around this time of year 27 years ago – at the height of the Cabbage Patch Craze.

The Cabbage Patch Kids were created by Debbie Morehead and Xavier Roberts in 1978 and originally called “Little People”. The original dolls were all cloth and sold at local craft shows. The dolls attracted the attention of toy manufacturer Coleco, who began mass-production in 1982. The dolls had large, round heads, and soft fabric bodies.

In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York City. By October, riots were occurring in stores around the country. The dolls made the cover of Newsweek before Christmas.

You did not just buy these dolls. You “adopted” them. Each doll had a adoption papers.

Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia is the “birthplace” of Cabbage Patch Kids. It is an old clinic that was converted into a retail unit and mini theme park where the dolls can be sold. Creepily, the “hospital” is presented as a birthing, nursery, and adoption center for premium Cabbage Patch Kids. Even more creepily, the employees dress and act the parts of the doctors and nurses caring for the dolls as if they are real babies. When the intercom announces that a Mother Cabbage is in labor, a nurse hurries to get ready for delivery of a new Cabbage Patch baby. With the nurse are the pink and blue bunnybees that pollinate the kids with crystals, determining if the newborn is a boy- blue crystal or girl- pink crystal. The nurse comments on how much the Tree is dilated and injects with “Imagicillin,” an “experimental but highly recommended” drug.

If the need arises, a “C-section” or “Cabbage section” may be administered. After the doll is successfully birthed, the audience is asked to provide suggestions for the its first two names, the third of which is always that of the adopter. Most of the time the children’s names are chosen by the youngest kid. These names are then recorded on its certificate and on a name tag, and the doll takes a place among the hundreds that inhabit the facility’s nurseries and play environments.

Although the fad has faded, Babyland General Hospital is still a big tourist attraction!

Along with the the success of the dolls came the breakfast cereal, a line of real children’s diapers, as well as a television show.The Cabbage Patch Kids Christmas Special was number one in its time slot on ABC when it was aired in 1985.

Of course, when there is something very successful, there can be backlash. In this case, the backlash came in the form of the awesome Garbage Pail Kids! I can write a whole article on these cards (in fact, I think I will!). The Garbage Pail Kids had pictures of Cabbage Patch looking kids on them doing all kinds of gross things, may have had some weird physical abnormality, or suffer a terrible fate.

However, Topps (the makers of the Garbage Pail Kids cards) was sued for trademark infringement by Xavier Roberts. But, by then both fads were fading.

In 1988 Coleco went bankrupt. So they sold the rights to the Cabbage Patch Kids to Hasbro. Hasbro then started making the dolls with some gimicks such as dolls that played kazoos. There was also the “Birthday Kids”, the “Splash ‘n’ Tan” Kids, and the “Pretty Crimp and Curl” Dolls. Hasbro was not very successful, so they sold the rights to Mattel. Mattel started making the dolls out of vinyl, which made them more durable.

In 2003, Toys “R” Us took over the Cabbage Patch Kids brand from Mattel, producing 20-inch ‘Kids and 18-inch Babies, both with cloth bodies and vinyl heads. They were packaged in cardboard cabbage leaf seats. In 2003, the 20-inch ‘Kids debuted in the Times Square flagship store. These dolls were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the line, and were available both online and in stores around the US.

Does anybody have any war stories about getting their Cabbage Patch Kids? I am also curious about the Babyland General Hospital? Has anybody been there? Is it not as creepy as it sounds?

Mr. Mouth


Oh yes, “He just can’t keep his big mouth shut!” The Pac-Man looking Mr. Mouth came out in 1976 by Tomy. It was a simple game. You would place chips in a plastic hand, and try to catapult the chips into Mr. Mouth as his head spun around, and his mouth opened and closed. You had to time it just right. If you shot too early, you would hit him in the face, and if you shot too late, you could be frustrated as the chip would hit him right on his mouth just as it was closing. Then you would get aggravated, and peg him in the back of his head when he turned away from you! The object of the game was to be the first to get all of your chips into his mouth.
After you get bored with that, you could back the hands up further away, and test your skills that way.

Later Mr. Mouth changed to a frog, and you catapult flies in his mouth. But there is nothing like our yellow big mouth friend (and sometimes enemy)!

December 8, 1980 – The Death of John Lennon

Monday, December 8, 1980, the legendary Beatle, John Lennon was murdered. The announcement came from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football (the New England Patriots vs. the Miami Dolphins):

John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman at Lennon’s home, The Dakota, in New York City. He had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where it was stated that nobody could have lived for more than a few minutes after sustaining such injuries. Shortly after local news stations reported Lennon’s death, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of The Dakota. He was cremated on 10 December 1980, at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York; the ashes were given to Ono, who chose not to hold a funeral for him.

On the morning of December 8, photographer Annie Leibovitz went to Ono and Lennon’s apartment to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stone. She had promised Lennon a photo with Ono would make the cover. After the photo shoot, Lennon gave what would be his last interview to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin for a music show on the RKO Radio Network. At 5:00 pm, Lennon and Ono left their apartment to mix the track “Walking on Thin Ice”, an Ono song featuring Lennon on lead guitar, at Record Plant Studio.

As Lennon and Ono walked to their limousine, they were approached by several people seeking autographs, among them, Mark David Chapman. Chapman silently handed Lennon a copy of Double Fantasy, and Lennon autographed it.

John and Yoko then went back to the studio until 10:50 pm. Then John wanted to be home in time to say goodnight to five-year-old son Sean before he went to sleep. As he entered the Dakota, Chapman was waiting for him, and shot him in the back. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Chapman pleaded guilty to Lennon’s murder in June 1981, against the advice of his lawyers, who wanted to file an insanity plea. He received a life sentence but under the terms of his guilty plea became eligible for parole in 2000, after serving 20 years. Chapman has been denied parole at hearings every two years since 2000 and remains in prison.

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has many memorials and tributes, such as New York City’s Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden area in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building. Ono later donated $1 million for its maintenance. It has become a gathering place for tributes on Lennon’s birthday and on the anniversary of his death, as well as at other times of mourning, such as after the September 11 attacks and following George Harrison’s death on November 29, 2001.

I remember listening to my parents’ Beatles albums non-stop for a while after John Lennon’s death. I could not get enough of the Help! album as well as Rubber Soul. I have been a Beatles fan ever since then. The Beatles have had a major influence on most artists, even through today. The Beatles were boy band predecessors for New Kids on the Block, all the way to the Jonas Brothers (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing). They had a major influence on Alternative/New Wave rock (especially with the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and also had a major influence on Hard Rock/Heavy Metal (The White Album). And they were all great singer/songwriters.

Rolling Stone magazine is marking the anniversary of John’s death by releasing Lennon’s final interview. It was conducted just three days before his death.

During the interview, Lennon slammed critics saying they want “dead heroes” like James Dean and Sid Vicious. Lennon said he was not interested in being anyone’s “dead hero.”

Well John did have a sense of humor, so I wonder what he would think.
It is a shame that a peaceful man died in such a violent way. And it is also sad for all of us because he had so much more to contribute.
But the music he did write and perform will live forever.

In closing, here is an editorial piece by Yoko Ono that was published today in the New York Times:


John Lennon

I don’t remember how I heard that John Lennon had been shot. Thirty years ago, on a warm December night in Manhattan, it was suddenly in the air, on the street — with only a brief, grim gap between news of the shooting at the Dakota, on 72nd Street and news of his death at Roosevelt Hospital. I called my brother in California and then sat in the stairwell of a building at 27th and Third, numb and grieving, like everyone else.

It was a new kind of death — not a political assassination like the ones that claimed the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr.; not the self-immolation that took down Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. Lennon survived the ’60s and ’70s, and by 1980 he was living in New York City as normally, as modestly, as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, could. Then a deranged young man, Mark David Chapman, found a secular scripture in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and shot Lennon in hopes of becoming Holden Caulfield.

Every day I’m at The Times, I pass a photo of the Beatles taken at a press conference during one of their early visits to New York. In the picture, Lennon’s hands are folded behind him, and he stands, with the other Beatles, in a corona from the press lights. Invariably, it reminds me of the famous portrait Annie Leibovitz shot the morning of the day Lennon was killed — the one where he is lying naked, fetal, clinging to Yoko Ono, the ridge of his back so terribly exposed.

We remember what we remember of Lennon, and of that night. When I was young, he was the only adult that mattered outside my family — the Beatle of Beatles. I loved his wit; his irony; his “Help!”; his urgent, reedy voice; his unceasing transformations. Like everyone else who loved him, I can’t help grieving, even now, for all the transformations we lost 30 years ago when John Lennon was only 40.

Trivia Tuesday: 12/7/10

Question: Who was the original lead singer for Journey?


Last Question: What was the name of the program that aired on the Disney Channel in the late 80s/early 90s that featured musical performances as an integral part of the plot and show. The show featured pre-Party of Five Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt as well as Martika?

Answer: Kids Incorporated

Kids Incorporated (or Kids Inc.) aired in syndication from 1984-1985, then moved to the Disney Channel from 1986-1993. The series revolved around a group of children and teenagers who performed in their own rock group, Kids Incorporated. The band members struggled to deal with issues ranging from child abuse to peer pressure to schoolyard crushes while performing regularly at a local former musical club (now a kid’s a hangout), The P*lace. The members of Kids Incorporated ranged in age from eight to mid-teens. From 1987 to 1988 there were six members of the group; in other seasons, the band always consisted of three girls and two boys. Actors left the series when they “aged out” of their roles as kids. Many of the actors from the series went on to successful careers, such as:
Stacy Ferguson (Fergie)
Martika (1-hit wonder with “Toy Soldiers”)
Mario Lopez (“Saved by The Bell” and “Dancing with the Stars”)
Eric Balfour (24, Haven, Skyline)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (Party of Five, The Ghost Whisperer)
Brittany Murphy (Clueless, 8 Mile, King of the Hill)
Scott Wolf (Party of Five)

Here is the theme song from 1986:

Here is Fergie singing “Say You, Say Me”:

And is the gang singing Taylor Dayne’s hit “Tell It To My Heart”:

Ronald Reagan Quote of the Week – 12/6/10

However, our task is far from over. Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you’d think that the 1980’s were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They’re claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.

* Speech at 1994 Gala on his 83rd Birthday February 3, 1994

Captain EO

Well, I could not resist. While in Epcot this past Monday, I found time to go see Captain EO. I actually don’t regret seeing it. Of course, it was no Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, or Tower of Terror, but it was kind of cute. Some parts were very cool, and some parts were really stupid.
For those of you who may not know, Captain EO is a 3D movie (although I think this is technically a 4D movie), starring Michael Jackson, that was released in the Disney parks in 1986, and ran through the mid-90s.
After Michael Jackson died, as with his music, interest in Captain EO was renewed. Disney reopened Captain EO in Disneyland on February 23, 2010, Disneyland Paris on June 12, 2010, Tokyo Disney on July 1, and in Epcot on on July 2. I’m not sure about the other parks, but the Epcot version replaced the 3D movie “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” (which had replaced Captain EO in the first place).
Captain EO was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and also starred Anjelica Huston, who played the Supreme Leader. Also, George Lucas was the executive producer. The pre-show was the same exact pre-show from 1986. It just basically showed scenes of a very young Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas working, preparing to film the movie. And it showed the secondary characters getting their makeup put on.

**Spoiler Alert – Don’t read the description if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled**

The movie tells the story of Captain EO (Michael Jackson) and the ragtag crew of his spaceship on a mission to deliver a gift to “The Supreme Leader”, of a world of rotting, twisted metal and steaming vents.
The movie starts with a space battle, which was the best part in my opinion. You can definitely tell that George Lucas had a major influence on this. And what made this even better was the 4-D experience that I mentioned earlier. As the ship is getting banged around, it feels like you are in the ship because the whole theater shakes and bangs around. It wasn’t like a motion ride, but it was just enough to make it really cool. During this space battle you meet all the characters of Captain EO’s crew. Again, you can tell that Lucas had a hand in this, because you feel like you’ve seen these characters in Star Wars’ Cantina. The crew consists of his small flying sidekick Fuzzball, the double-headed navigator and pilot Idey (Debbie Lee Carrington) and Ody (Cindy Sorenson), robotic security officer Major Domo (Gary Depew), a small robot Minor Domo (who fits like a module into Major Domo), and the Jar-Jar Binks of Captain EO, the clumsy elephant-like shipmate Hooter (Tony Cox).

Separated at Birth?


Hooter from Captain EO

Max Rebo from Star Wars

After Captain EO and the gang wins their battle, they crash land, they are captured and meet the Supreme Leader. This is where the movie kind of falls of the deep end. The Supreme Leader sentences the crew to be turned into trash cans (!), and Captain EO to 100 years of torture in her deepest, darkest dungeon. Before being sent away, Captain EO tells the Supreme Leader that he sees the beauty hidden within her, and that he brings her the key to unlock it: his song, “We Are Here To Change The World”. As he is singing the song, Captain EO is zapping the robot bad guys with beams from his arms and hands, and turns them into human dancers. Although the idea is pretty ridiculous, the effects are awesome – especially for the time that this was created – and the music is great. You actually feel like you’re transported back to the ’80s. There are warriors swing whips, and you can feel them go by you.
Of course, Captain EO transforms all the bad guys, and gets to the Supreme Leader. He zaps her, transforming her into a beautiful woman, her lair into a peaceful Greek temple and the planet into a beautiful place.

A celebration breaks out to “Another Part of Me”, as EO and his crew triumphantly exit and fly off into space.

This was a nice nostalgic trip back to the ’80s. I would recommend seeing this once. I don’t think I would go back over and over, if at all. But it is worth seeing once.

Music Video of the Week: 11/30/10

Since tomorrow is going to be a travel day for me (going from sunny 70-80 degree Florida to freezing my ass off in New England), this week’s video is a day early. Since it’s Christmas season, how about “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid:

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 to raise money for relief of the 1984–1985 famine in Ethiopia. Geldof put together a group called Band Aid, consisting of leading Irish and British musicians who were among the most popular of the era. The 1984 original became the biggest selling single in UK singles chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone. It stayed at Number 1 for five weeks. Here is the list of participants:

Adam Clayton (U2)
Phil Collins (Genesis, solo)
Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats)
Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet)
Chris Cross (Ultravox)
John Taylor (Duran Duran)
Paul Young
Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)
Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17)
Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran)
Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats)
Marilyn
Keren Woodward (Bananarama)
Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
Jody Watley (Shalamar)
Bono (U2)
Paul Weller (The Style Council)
James “J.T.” Taylor (Kool & the Gang)
George Michael (Wham!)
Midge Ure (Ultravox)
Martyn Ware (Heaven 17)
John Keeble (Spandau Ballet)
Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet)
Roger Taylor (Duran Duran)
Sarah Dallin (Bananarama)
Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama)
Pete Briquette (The Boomtown Rats)
Francis Rossi (Status Quo)
Robert ‘Kool’ Bell (Kool & the Gang)
Dennis J. T. Thomas (Kool & the Gang)
Andy Taylor (Duran Duran)
Jon Moss (Culture Club)
Sting (The Police)
Rick Parfitt (Status Quo)
Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran)
Johnny Fingers (The Boomtown Rats)
David Bowie
Boy George (Culture Club)
Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
Paul McCartney
Stuart Adamson (Big Country)
Bruce Watson (Big Country)
Tony Butler (Big Country)
Mark Brzezicki (Big Country)

Trivia Tuesday: 11/30/10

Question: What was the name of the program that aired on the Disney Channel in the late 80s/early 90s that featured musical performances as an integral part of the plot and show. The show featured pre-Party of Five Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt as well as Martika.


Last Question: Who was the lead singer of Genesis before Phil Collins stepped into the role?

Answer: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel founded Genesis in 1967 along with Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, and drummer Chris Stewart. In 1970, Phil Collins answered a Melody Maker classified ad for “…a drummer sensitive to acoustic music, and acoustic twelve-string guitarist” Genesis placed the ad after having already lost three drummers over two albums.

While Gabriel was the lead singer, Genesis became a flamboyant progressive rock band. Gabriel’s stage persona, led to tensions within the band. The breaking point came with the difficult pregnancy of Gabriel’s wife, Jill, and the subsequent birth of their first child, Anna. When he opted to stay with his sick daughter and wife, rather than record and tour, the resentment from the rest of the band led Gabriel to conclude that he had to leave the group. “Solsbury Hill”, Gabriel’s début single as a solo artist, was written specifically about his departure from Genesis. The song also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, reaching the Top 70, though it was recorded in 1976, and appeared on the ‘Car’ album in 1977.

Gabriel went on to further solo success with his groundbreaking music video for “Sledgehammer”, as well as the song “Big Time”, and my favorite Peter Gabriel song – “In Your Eyes”, which was featured in the movie Say Anything…