Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Star Wars toys

Here we see two extremely rare toys, and no, I never had either of them! Blue Snaggletooth and Yak Face are arguably the two rarest "Star Wars" figures from the original Kenner line of figures. Yes, my friends and I used to collect them. And they were great. Actually, like the Sesame St. playset, the little details tended to make them more fun.

I still remember the day my Dad pulled out a C-3PO figure from a bag. He told us that if we were good & got good grades, etc., we would be able to get it. Which is bad parenting, but it worked. We were good. And we eventually collected many of the figures and original toys. The toy room seemed to become the Star Wars toy room for a time.

The figures played a role in what I consider one of the funniest home movies we ever did. We tried to re-create scenes from the film using the figures and the playsets. You should see it. Strings are everywhere. Hands and arms are everywhere. It's classic. I guess I shouldn't laugh, because even in my recent home movies you can still see hands and arms everywhere. Oh, well.

If you were to ask me when the Star Wars toy boom began to die down, I would have to say it really began with the "Micro collection." The Star Wars micro collection was a limited series of toys and figures that began a little bit after "Empire" came out and just prior to "Jedi." It was made up of small metal figures rather than the plastic action figures, and it included several scenes/sets from the films, including the Wampa ice cave & the Millenium Falcon.

The micro collection was essentially too much for a collector to take! I mean, how would you like to collect hundreds of figures and toys, only to learn that now, you need to collect a totally NEW Millenium Falcon, Wampa ice cave, etc. ? We (and by we, I mean our parents) can only afford so much!

So we had to accept the fact that we couldn't afford everything. And accepting that fact made us reason, "You know, maybe I don't need to get EVERY single figure that comes out. . ."

So economics forced us to grow up and look at collecting differently. That, coupled with puberty (someday I will do a lengthy blog about that one!) made us understand that collecting every single figure wasn't the major goal of our lives. So we stopped collecting, and some of us (gasp!) actually gave up our collections. But that's okay, the toys did their part (See the Elvis teddy bear post in August 2006 for an explaination of this).

Now the original Kenner line is considered classic, and even an old beat-up Darth Vader figure with its head chopped off could probably sell for at least $1.00. It's great to look back on the toys and sometimes even play with them again, but I don't feel the need to go out and complete the collection.

I'm just thankful for what I've got.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fisher-Price Sesame Street

Along the lines of the Elvis teddy bear incident, I thought I could take a look back at some of the toys I used to enjoy as a kid that hopefully many of you remember as well. Many of these toys are no longer in my posession, forcing me to look to eBay to find suitable photographs. :)

The original Fisher-Price Sesame Street play set was great. Unlike many toys of today, the "action figures" (actually Fisher-Price little people, I know) were included with the toy! No batteries, no electronics of any kind. Yes, just a doll house, I know, but a Sesame dollhouse! Looking back, what made this thing so unique was how accurate it was. The stickers on the toy were a great representation of the actual set. For example, to the left of Hooper's Store was the door leading up to Bob's apartment. (It was just a sticker, it didn't open). That's a detail that might get missed by most non-Sesame fan people.

One big mistake- they put Ernie and Bert's apartment on top of Susan and Gordon's apartment. Actually, they live in the basement right below Susan & Gordon. But oh well. When you peek inside E&B's place, you get to see more of those great details. Bert's bottle cap collection is on the wall, along with the portrait of E&B. And when you peek into the bathroom door, you see in the bathtub- yep, you guessed it, Ernie's rubber duckie.

The original set included, IIRC, Gordon, Susan, Mr. Hooper, Big Bird, Oscar (who looked just like a trash can until you lifted the lid), Cookie Monster, Ernie and Bert. Later on, they created other little people not included in the original set. They were: Sherlock Hemlock, Roosevelt Franklin, Herry Monster, Grover Monster, The Count, Prarie Dawn and Snuffy. Somehow we lost the Gordon figure for many years until one day Dad found him in the bottom of our toy chest. I remember that moment well. At last the lost figure was found!

In Susan and Gordon's apartment, we see a portrait of the Count on the wall. And the set includes a TV set with only one channel. It shows Grover counting to three- twenty-four hours a day. :) You'd think Sesame Street would have more original programming.

The apartment above Hooper's store is Mr. Hooper's apartment. There's a painting on the wall of Big Bird which is signed something like, "To my good friend, Mr. Blooper." Now the problem with having all those extra figures was that they didn't have a place to live on the Street. That meant that EVERYBODY had to live in Mr. Hooper's apartment! It must not have been a very comfortable time for those guys. Thankfully, I guess they all have places of their own now.

So the attention to detail - even if the details were'nt always 100% accurate - was definitely a highlight of this toy. I'm glad I can remember those little things all these years later.

If you're interested in muppet/Sesame toys, you may want to visit the Muppet Central forum in the links section & talk with other zany collectors. :)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Phantom of the Opera

I first heard the music from "Phantom of the Opera" on, of all places, the Jerry Lewis labor day telethon. They showed a video clip of "Music Of the Night." The beautiful song stuck with me, and I eventually got ahold of Michael Crawford's "Andrew Lloyd Webber" album, another real treat. But I never actually got to see the play, and I didn't get to see the Phantom movie when it was in the theaters. But I enjoyed the music that I had heard, and so one evening recently I decided to rent the movie.

Let's see. . .I think I cried about three times. Something like that. And it's been a long time since a movie has brought me to tears.

The story is about a young woman named Christine who becomes a popular singer at the Paris opera house. She even has her old boyfriend, Raoul, come to visit her and share his feelings of love for her. Sounds like a charmed life, right? But all is not well. You see, lurking beneath the opera house is part of the reason that Christine is such a great singer. She has been taking lessons from an "Angel of Music" -- an angel that was promised by her father before he died. Could this "Phantom of the Opera" be a true messenger from beyond?

Some of the most moving moments in the film come in places you wouldn't expect. At one point, Christine pays a visit to a cemetery. The song "Wishing you were somehow here again" shows us the heart of Christine and demonstrates her struggle to let go of the past. So we get a peek into the hearts of both Christine and the Phantom (and even a bit into Raoul's heart - his love for Christine is true. At the climax, he urges Christine not to "throw her life away" for his sake!)

At the end (I'm trying hard not to give anything away, folks, but it's not easy), the Phantom is brought to see the error of his ways, but the way this is brought about is completely unexpected. It has to do, I think, with the sharing of one's heart with someone else. It was a way of showing the Phantom, "You are not alone."

This film is awesome. An all-around great movie. Incredibly moving and beautifully filmed and acted and sung. I'm now a fan and have been keeping my eye out for Phantom-related information. I bought the soundtrack album and a cassette of the Broadway version (also awesome!). The movie was all I had hoped it would be - a beautiful, tragic story set to some beautiful music. Sadly, it seems a lot of "Phantom" fans don't like it for various reasons (It's not Michael Crawford, I hate her dress, etc.). Friends, let's not throw away something that's good just because it isn't perfect.

I've been humming the music to myself for days. I'd love to be in this show, but the problem is I want to play too many people. I want to be the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Carlotta, those two opera owners, the cast of "Masquerade," etc. Hey, maybe I could do a "one-man" Phantom concert! Hmmm. . .

Here are some comments from two old friends of mine:

ERNIE: Hey Bert, what does he EAT? How does the Phantom eat?
BERT: I don't know. Maybe he catches fish in his little moat down there.
ERNIE: Oh, there are no fish in that water, Bert.
BERT: How do you know?
ERNIE: Well, he lives under the city, right?
BERT: UGH! The Phantom of the toilet!

Anyway, if you're looking for a great musical, I'd definitely recommend this one. Just watch out for that chandelier. . .


Here's the official movie site:

Yes, it really is still playing! Here's the web site of the play:

You can commune with other Phantom fans here:

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mel carrying (sigh) Jodie

Can anything good come out of the recent Mel Gibson incident? Well, this picture of Mel carrying (sigh) Jodie Foster is the best thing I can think of so far.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Elvis' teddy bear and yours, too

The headline writers are going to have a field day with this one. Here are just a few I've seen so far: "Teddy bear all shook up by hound dog" "Elvis' teddy bear bites the big one" "Too much to bear."

Did you ever wonder what happened to the teddy bear you once owned as a child? Well, keep it in mind as you consider this tragic teddy tale: Mabel, a teddy bear once owned by Elvis Presley was unfortunately torn apart by a guard dog who was supposed to protect it. That dog is out of a job. Would YOU hire that dog to guard something of yours? I've noticed one site already considering publishing info. about how to kill a dog. Here's a quote from an article:

"Barney has been a model guard dog for more than six years. I still can't believe what happened," security guard Greg West was quoted as saying after the attack on Tuesday night. "Either there was a rogue scent of some kind on Mabel, which switched on Barney's deepest instincts, or it could have been jealousy. I was just stroking Mabel and saying what a nice bear she was."

Sad? Yes, but consider something. That teddy bear did its job. Its job was to make Elvis happy, and it has done that. It also made other people happy, including (I hope) Somerset aristocrat Sir Benjamin Slade, who bought the bear at an auction. I'd like to think that he got some kind of satisfaction by owning the bear, even if it was only for a short time. (He may have lost some money in the -forgive me- bear market, but aren't teddy bears supposed to be worth more than money?)

It's the same with your old teddy and mine. It's the same with all the wonderful things from childhood. They did their jobs. We love them and in many cases we miss them, but whether we have them or not, we're thankful they were there, and we still have the good feelings that we had when they were there. That's part of what's good about being a grown-up. We have a greater capacity to make ourselves feel good all by ourselves.

Who would have known a teddy could force me into such profound musings. . .:) As Huey Lewis said, "that's the power of love. . ."

Since this is a news item, it's possible these links will be obsolete quickly, but for now, here's a link to the story. If it doesn't work, try searching for it using Google News in the links section to the right.