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American Bandito Pop-Culture Roadshow for Jan 27, 2020


Another episode of my Pop-Culture Roadshow, where I look at toys that I've collected and try to find out a little history or interesting facts on some of the items. Just to learn a little useless knowledge for myself.

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Ohio Arts Magic Etch A Sketch Screen

red frame on white background
So the first one up is an Etch A Sketch. Of course, we all know what an Etch A Sketch is, I wanted to see how they were invented.

Anybody who's ever played with one, you've spent enough time with it to kind of already know exactly how it works. A stylus inside of it, it's connected by two crossbars and you control them with the two knobs and it draws on the powder coating the screen and you can shake it away then it's gone.

The powder in there is actually an aluminum powder which they say is non-toxic. How do you make it non-toxic? No idea didn't look it up.

Created in the 1950s by a guy named André Cassagnes in France. He was an electrician or something? He was writing on some filament on a piece of glass to mark something and saw that it showed up on the other side. That gave him the idea.

He did a prototype that had pulleys and levers and glass that he used for it. And then he took it to a toy show and tried to sell it. Everybody was fascinated by the concept of the idea but he wanted way too much money for the rights to it.

Enter Ohio Arts

One company did buy it and they were called the Ohio arts company. They had made a lot of money in the early 1900s making picture frames called “Cupid Awake/Cupid Asleep”.

One frame had a picture of Cupid that was asleep and the next to it was a picture of Cupid that was awake. It was essentially, you know how you go to Target and you buy picture frames and there are pictures in there as examples? They did that with these pictures and people bought them and put them on their walls without removing them and it became hugely popular.

Ohio Arts decided they wanted to get into the toy business and it so happened that they had a bunch of ways to make frames for the Etch A Sketch so it worked out great.

When they finally got it going they advertised it on television. And everybody said the Etch A Sketch looked like a television. With television being a new thing the kids liked that it was as if they were drawing on a TV.

So it just kind of, everything aligned and everybody loved it.

That's what I know about Etch A Sketch.

Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity Book 1962

image contains book on white background
So this is an old book called "Janet Lennon at Camp Calamity". On the cover, it says singing star from the Lawrence Welk Show. It was made in 1962. 

She is actually Janet Lennon from The Lennon sisters. They were a singing group of sisters, The Lennon Sisters that is. And they did lots of appearances on movies and television shows and their first one was actually the Lawrence Welk Show.

The way they got discovered was Lawrence Welk's grandson went to school with these girls. One time Lawrence Welk was at home sick and his grandson brought the Lennon sisters over to sing for him to make him feel better.

So they did, he loved them and he signed them on to be a regular on the show. From there, they became very popular.

To capitalize on this popularity people began to market them by creating things like coloring books, paper dolls and books like this.

The book is similar to Nancy Drew. Janet is a camp counselor but things keep happening at the camp so she has to solve a mystery.

Tragedy

Another thing I found out, this is actually really sad and a weird transition. They were gonna get their own television show in 1969 Jimmy Durante was gonna host, and call it, Jimmy Durante presents the Lennon sisters. And right before they debuted, their father was murdered by a crazy fan.

This fan believed that he was actually married to one of the Lennon Sisters in his mind. And he thought the reason that he couldn't be with her is he believed it was the father that was keeping them apart.

So he followed the father to a golf course and shot him. And then, later on, the killer went home and shot himself.

Apparently, the shooter also mailed a letter to their house that was a picture of the father and a cutout of a gun to his head and it said like, this high noon or something like that. Really freaking creepy stuff. So that's horrible.

But I found that all out just because I got this book and she was the Lawrence Welk Show. So, weird way to end that one but that's what happened.

But they're still around and performing to this day.

Walt Disney The Black Hole Press-Out Book 1979

Image contains book on white background
This one is what's known as a press-out book and this one is for the Walt Disney movie The Black Hole.

I wanted to know more about press out books. They're like paper dolls but you put the paper pieces from the book together like models. And then inside the book, they have entire pages to stage scenes.

I wanted to find out more, I can't find the origin of them they just started making them in 1960.

Movie History

So I decided to look up information on the movie The Black Hole instead. I don't think I ever saw this movie. It was a Disney movie that was released at the time when disaster movies were popular like, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure and all that.

So this was one of those but in space. Well, from the get-go the whole thing was riddled with tons of problems. The writer Disney hired died, they had to get somebody else to finish it.

Then it kept changing hands creatively. They kept making revisions, changing their mind on which direction it should go. Things like that.

It finally got made. It kind of got okay reviews, mixed reviews. Star Wars came out around that time and introduced a bunch of new special effects and they wanted to use some for this movie but they had already been in production. A lot of the movie was already using lots of like painted images and things that were used for like skyscapes and backgrounds for effect.

They had a guy who painted all these big space backgrounds and he did like, I want to say 150 of them. And they ended up using only 19.

To promote the movie Disney used to have this Sunday comic called the "Disney Tales of Adventure". They'd hire cartoon artists to basically draw stories based on things that Disney released. So it was a cartoon that was literally just an advertisement.

They created a series for The Black Hole in Sunday comics that would also explain some of the holes in the story and fix that. And the person that they hired to do it was Jack Kirby, who created a lot of the comic book heroes we know today.

This was the birth of Touchstone Pictures

It was the first movie that Disney released that was rated PG and it was because they said: "hell" and "damn" in the movie. And also because apparently there's like a horrible death of the captain at the end. So it was too much for the children. They wanted to make more movies aimed at adults and didn’t want to have their movie studio Buena Vista connected to that.

And that's how Touchstone Pictures started because Disney wanted to do more adult sci-fi type stuff.

Garfield and Pooky Tray Puzzle 1978

Image contains illustrated tray puzzle on yellow background
This is a Garfield drawing on what's called a tray puzzle, it's a picture and it's inside a tray with a frame to do piece it together in. 

I wanted to find out who came up with the concept to tray puzzles because there are just puzzles and then all sudden it was like here's one that's on a card. I didn’t really find anything but found out the interesting history of puzzles in general.

The first one they think was created about the 1700s and they were maps. They would paint maps on a giant piece of wood and saw out the regions. It was not a jigsaw it was not one that locks together. It was just cut out by the shapes and that's all it was.

And that's the way puzzles were for a really long time.

Then during the depression puzzles actually became very popular because it was kind of an escape. To make them cheaper they made them out of cardboard but if you sneezed or something or if you walked by too fast or you open the door and wind blew, the entire thing would fall apart and it'd be ruined. So that's when they finally started making interlocking pieces.

The competition between wood and cardboard puzzles was actually very neck-and-neck because it was seen as more "fancy" to get a wood puzzle. You'd be like, "Oh I can afford a wood puzzle". And then the people with the cardboard puzzles were like, "I don't care". I want to do more puzzles. So wood puzzles started more and more out of style.

They say the hardest puzzle ever made was a full-size version of a Jackson Pollock painting.

A tangent on Garfield voiced by Lorenzo Music

I have a band that's called Lorenzo's Music. We were originally called just Lorenzo Music, because I was watching the Bob Newhart show one night and in the closing credits it said created by Lorenzo Music, and I was like, that's a cool band name. So I called my band that.

He was also the voice of Garfield and he lived in Chicago. My band had played a few shows in Chicago and he caught wind of this and had his lawyer contact us asking to get a CD to check out the band. And I'm like, oh boy.

So we sent him one. But just to be safe we put an apostrophe "s" on the end and called it Lorenzo's Music and that kind of solved the problem.

Sadly he died like a year after that we never heard from him again. There's a lot of death in this episode that I'm talking about!?

And check this out, Lorenzo Music was the voice of Garfield in the television show Garfield. He also was the voice of Bill Murray in the cartoon version of the Ghostbusters. And then later on in the Garfield movies, Garfield was voiced by Bill Murray who was in the Ghostbusters who Lorenzo Music did the voice of!

That is what I got. Hope that was all interesting enough and see you later.

-Tom

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