Posts from the ‘books’ Category

Little Girl Blue

These days, I make no secret of my affinity for the Carpenters’ music. However, I have never really spoken to anyone of my fascination with Karen Carpenter herself, and the precious few things I knew of her brief life.

There are several TV retrospectives and biographies– and of course, the 1989 biopic which started this whole thing for me. I’ve seen them all now (thanks to the magic of the internet) and at the end of each one, I always felt that there was something vital missing, like we weren’t getting the whole story. Things like that don’t just happen. There had to be a reason for her illness and struggle besides her being unhappy with her body, as many women are.

I would sit and listen to the songs, and prompted by the sadness in her voice, the curiosity would set in and I’d ask myself, why? Why was Karen Carpenter dead? Why did her marriage fail after such a short time? Above all, why was she so damn sad? I’d watch those biographies over again, hoping maybe I’d notice something I hadn’t before. There were hints of it in the TV movie, but they were only hints hidden under a lot of television gloss, and still I was left with far more questions than answers.

Until today.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, after having listened to Karen sing all day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to Amazon.com, intent on purchasing Carpenters: The Untold Story, the official biography written by Ray Coleman in 1994. Maybe there would be some answers hidden in its pages.

I read the reviews, as I always do before buying something, and I started to change my mind. One reviewer stated, “…unfortunately, Coleman fails to deliver the intimate personal details that help one to understand the tragic and bittersweet story that is the Carpenters.” This wouldn’t do at all. I knew it was just going to say the same stuff I’d already heard in all those other biographies and TV specials. This was whitewashed– not necessarily the fault of the author, but an inevitable result of collaborating with the Carpenter family, whom I’d long suspected of being a little too secretive on the whole matter. What were they trying to hide?

Then over in one of the side panels of the Amazon page, I spotted Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter. I had never seen or heard of this book before– that’s because it just came out a month ago today. This is an all-new, “unauthorized” biography of Karen Carpenter, created with the help of many of her trusted friends.

Again, I went to the reviews. “Finally, the truth,” they declared. Still skeptical, I looked at the preview of the book, and read the foreword by Dionne Warwick, and the author’s note, and the prologue, which told of the struggle of the writer hired to pen the TV movie, and how he was forced by the family to edit and edit until he gave up and quit the project. I said to myself, aha! This is the one.

So I ordered it, shelled out for the one-day shipping, and spent a good bit of today reading the thing from cover-to-cover. After I finished reading it, I felt like I had lost a dear friend. I laughed a couple of times, but mostly cried. This story is possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever read. My suspicions and those of many other fans were correct– in many of their songs, Karen had been singing her life. She had suffered so many hardships: being forced out from behind her beloved drum kit into the harsh spotlight, her practically non-existent personal life, her failed attempts at independence from her family, her shelved solo album, her utterly disastrous marriage. She really, truly was Little Girl Blue.

What really broke my heart was finally learning the details of her marriage and why it fell apart so quickly. The book also lays bare some of the hurtful, cruel things that her husband said to her, and I almost couldn’t believe it. How could a person bear so much pain with a smile? The answer is, they can’t. And that’s why she’s not with us today.

In spite of all these sad details, the book is lovingly told, not sensationalized, not slanderous. It’s a respectful account of her story, and I’m very, very glad for it. We, her fans, can now begin to understand and come to terms with her death instead of being left wondering why. Hopefully, all of those who read it can learn something from it, can learn that what we all need more than money, talent, fame, or anything else is love, acceptance, and support. And of course, I hope that it would also help shed some more light on anorexia nervosa and similar afflictions.

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Nostalgiathon #1: More Thrift Store Adventures

It’s the first day of the Nostalgiathon! It snuck up on me pretty fast, since my life has actually been busy for once. But we’re right on schedule. However, tomorrow’s post might be late…I have a funeral to go to. (More about that later this week.) I’ll try real hard to write it today so I can just post it tomorrow when I get a chance, but that’s not carved in stone.

I was debating whether or not I should give you guys an itinerary or something, but…I’ve decided to keep it mostly a surprise. Kinda like not knowing what toy you’re gonna get in your Happy Meal.

Also, some of you guys offered up suggestions. As a token of my gratitude, I’m going to do my best to incorporate most of them into the Nostalgiathon. But I make no promises as to how well I’ll be able to incorporate them. I’ve never really done this before, you know!

I made a couple more thrift store trips in the past week. If you haven’t seen my first post chronicling my thrift store adventures, go check it out when you get a minute, since this is sort of like a continuation of that.

Anyway, I discovered another thrift store in a different part of town than the other ones I went to. It’s called Uptown Bargains, and I’ve actually been to their other huge store on the southside, but that was a couple of years ago. (I may have to go there again soon when I get a chance.)

One thing that’s cool about this place is everything is marked with a colored tag (green, gray, blue, yellow and orange I think). And certain colors get 50% off. I think it rotates but I’m not sure. The last time I went, gray and blue tags were 50% off, which really worked to my advantage.

Anyway, if you didn’t read the first post, these are the things I’m typically looking for when I go to these places:

– Toys
– Unique VHS tapes
– Kids’ books
– Anything old and quirky

In the old and quirky category, this thrift store fares pretty well, actually. The reason why I haven’t bought any of that stuff is because most of the old and quirky things are retro T-shirts and TVs, and they’re more expensive. They even had a top-loading VCR, but it looked like it might have been dropped and I think it was like ten dollars. They also had an old TV that actually kinda looked more like an old computer monitor. Very interesting.

VHS tapes? Well…they have a lot of them, and there are some good titles, but none of them are rare enough to justify buying. There also weren’t any home-recorded ones at all– I’m thinking they probably don’t accept them, which is a shame.

And now, the toy department.

The first time I went to this store, I scored pretty big. I went wandering around looking for the toys and from a distance an 18″ Red Butler doll shone out to me like a beacon. As usual, I said, “OH MY GOD” out loud and made a fool of myself as I rushed over to check it out.

Red Butler is one of the Color Kids from Rainbow Brite, only one of the two that’s male. That’s him over there on the right:

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Upon closer inspection, I saw that this doll was in extremely good condition. Upon even closer inspection, I found that it’s not vintage, but it’s one of the toys from the 2003 line. (The new line of toys all have orange tags with the Rainbow Brite logo on them. Dead giveaway.) But I didn’t give a shit, it was still Red fucking Butler. Here’s what the doll looks like.

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I haven’t figured out if it’s a reproduction of an old doll or what, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. The only ones I’ve seen that I’m sure are vintage are the smaller dolls. Some of the big ones are listed on eBay as vintage when they’re actually the 2003 doll, so who knows. And like I said, I don’t really care too much. He’s still a great find.

And right next to him was a bonus. A huge, soft Rainbow Brite. It’s from the 2003 line, not just because of the orange tag but because I’m pretty sure they never made a Rainbow Brite like this in the 80s:

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When I say “huge”, I mean she’s about 27″ tall. Compared to the majority of my other toys, that’s like fucking King Kong or something. Except King Kong was never this cuddly. It’s neat to have a cuddly Rainbow Brite, because the old-school 18″ doll has one of those big plastic heads that aren’t exactly great for snuggling up to sleep with.

Needless to say, I tucked both of them under my arm and kept on looking. I also found a plush manatee and snatched that up because it was damn cute and it could be friends with the plush walrus I have. God I’m a dork.

Anyway, the next find was a shocking one. Remember how I found VINTAGE CARE BEAR at one of those other thrift stores? Well, VINTAGE CARE BEAR now has a friend. Yes, I found ANOTHER VINTAGE FUCKING CARE BEAR. Why do I always capitalize it? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. And with this one, I didn’t have to buy a bunch of other toys I didn’t really want! Even better.

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It’s Love a Lot Bear! And mine’s in fantastic shape, too, considering how old it is. Honestly, it looks like it hasn’t been played with much at all. The tag isn’t even faded. Sometimes I wonder how these things end up in thrift stores. VINTAGE CAAARE BEEAAARS

And the price for all this great stuff? Eight bucks. Yes.

My second visit was just a few days ago. I didn’t get nearly as much loot as I did the first time I went there, but that’s because I also had significantly less money (only four dollars). That doesn’t mean I didn’t find a couple of cool things, though.

They had two 80s Cabbage Patch Kids. The girl’s hair was sort of disheveled, but she had her original dress (I know this because it has a patch on it that says “Cabbage Patch Kids”) and was in good shape otherwise. There was a boy too, who had his original shirt but had no pants. Both of them were 2.99, so it was one or the other. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept digging around, hoping to unearth something worth writing about.

You guys remember The Wuzzles? (No? Maybe this will jog your memory.) Well, I found a Wuzzles plushie! At first I wasn’t sure what I had just freed from the bottom of the pile, but when I realized it was Butterbear I was like, holy crap, I have to buy this thing. Because I had never seen a Wuzzles plushie before. I had some of the cartoon episodes on tape and I had one of the read-along book and tape things, though.

Here’s what she looks like:

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So now I was torn in two. I only had four dollars, so I couldn’t afford a Wuzzle and a Cabbage Patch Kid. I decided to go with Butterbear, because if I really wanted to, I could probably find another Cabbage Patch Kid pretty easily. Probably not for three bucks, though, so I kinda regret that I had to leave them behind.

Anyway, the plushie is in great condition. If you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t be able to tell it was 23 years old. Especially since the tag has been cut off.

I almost forgot to mention the selection of books at this place. The first time I went, I didn’t really look, but this time I decided to go through it thoroughly.

They have some real relics, like Highlights books from the early 70s. There are a lot of old kids’ books, but I didn’t find too many that I really wanted.

While I was looking, I remembered a book that I used to love as a kid and was one of the first ones I ever read: a Little Golden Book called Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree. And I thought, you know, it would be kickass if they had that book.

I looked them over one more time, and right before I was going to give up, I found a gold spine that I’d missed before. I pulled it out and said to myself, “Well, I’ll be damned.” It was Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree! The cover was sort of faded, but the pages were in good shape for a 26-year-old book (there’s an inscription inside that’s dated 1982), and it was only 50 cents. Needless to say, I didn’t have to argue with myself much over that purchase.

I’ll definitely be going back to this place sometime when I get some more money to blow, though I’m kind of afraid that I already bought all the really cool stuff they had. We’ll see.

Books! They Do A Body Good.

When I was a kid, I loved books just as much as I loved movies and cartoons. I learned to read at a very early age, and would look at my collection of books over and over again. I even wanted to make my own children’s books– and often did, taking great care to crudely assemble them with copier paper and Scotch tape, complete with even cruder illustrations.

Obviously, old children’s books are a one-way ticket to Nostalgia Land for me. They’re also the easiest retro junk to find, and the cheapest to boot– they’re often only a dollar a piece. I assume that people get tired of their old books and leave them in Mom’s attic for a few decades before they finally end up in a Goodwill or other second-hand store. So it’s no surprise that I usually find some pretty cool books in places like that.

Today, I hit the jackpot.

About a block from my apartment there’s a place called Second Chance Books and Comics. I’ve passed it several times, and today I finally decided to pay a visit. Boy, I’m glad I did because this place has everything. I found five books, four of which I had as a child and one of which I thought was too hilarious to pass up. They even had a huge collection of VHS tapes. I wanted to buy like, ten of them, but settled on just two, because I’m poor, dammit. All the items are things that would have ended up on my Retro Wishlist at some point.
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