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Posts Tagged ‘Creature Features’

Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a kid. I loved it more than Christmas. It was that cool time of year when the leaves would fall from the trees on windy evenings and the breeze still had a hint of warmth. I guess it also had to do with the fact that on Halloween night I could trick-or-treat and get CANDY, CANDY and more CANDY — especially since every other day of the year our parents warned us never to take candy from strangers. I loved dressing up and loved creating my perfect costume. When we were little, my Mom would make Halloween costumes for us. Here’s me and Tracy in the late ’60s:

“Help, I’ve lost my sheep! And my dignity.”

In later years, Mom would sometimes buy us costumes from the store — probably K-Mart, and most likely a Blue Light Special. Little girls in the late ’60s and early ’70s had about two costume choices: nurse or witch. I chose the nurse. There were little candy pills that came in the little plastic nurse’s bag. Hand-me-downs were also a part of Halloween: Coleen and Melissa would be wearing those Little Bo Peep costumes a few years later.

Once I became a lot older (at least 9 or 10), I would pride myself in making my own costume. I wasn’t your typical girly-girl who wanted to be a Princess or Fairy or Bride for Halloween. I was immensely proud of a Bum costume I designed once. I used a pair of my Dad’s old pants, an old shirt and tie, and a sailor’s hat. Hmm. Apparently I was a bum from some ’40s Hollywood movie. I rubbed used coffee grounds all over my face to resemble a five-o’clock shadow. “Brother, can you spare a dime? Or a Snickers?”

When I was in elementary school, there was a super dry spell in Halloween festivities for children in the San Francisco Bay Area. There was a crazy serial killer named the Zodiac on the loose. During those Zodiac Years, no trick-or-treating was allowed in Vallejo. I hated the Zodiac. I was too young to understand what was going on — all I knew was some crazy person had ruined my favorite holiday. Of course if Halloween fell on a Saturday night, we could have our own party around the TV when this Bay Area classic came on:

“Creature Features” was an awesome horror movie show that played on Saturday nights. There was a cool, somewhat weird, host named Bob Wilkins and he would talk about the scary movies they were playing that night. These were usually “B” movies (maybe “C”) that aspired to be as bad as movies like “War of the Gargantuas” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” You probably noticed Bob in that opening clip, wearing his Buddy Holly glasses and puffing on a big cigar. In hindsight, I bet that thing was full of weed, because he was just way too mellow. I know you’re gonna click on that again just to hear that awesome, funky ’70s theme song.

Anyway, during the Zodiac Years, all kids were banned from the streets and had to go to school cafeterias or community centers to celebrate Halloween. Trick-or-treating around a cafeteria just isn’t the same once you’ve experienced the real thing outdoors, especially when that nasty corn smell is still lingering in the cafeteria air from lunch time.

We’d parade around the cafeteria in our costumes getting candy and snacks. Oh, and there was bobbing for apples, or as I like to call it, “Hello, Hepatitis!” What were those adults thinking? Hey guys, let’s grab a huge, rusty pail from the backyard scrap pile, fill it with water from the hose and throw some apples in it. Then let’s have the kids dress up like dorks with crazy makeup all over their face, run around the block begging the neighbors for candy in the cold, then drag them and their runny noses over to the big, rusty water pail full of apples and stick their faces in it. Then let’s have them bite at the apples with their candy-corroded teeth long enough so that all their spit mixes together in the water. If one of them actually snags an apple in their teeth, they WIN!! They win an APPLE!!

Even as a kid I knew there was something terribly wrong with bobbing for apples. But there were also other dangers lurking around in Halloween goodies. My Dad made us well aware of the potential razor blade or cherry bomb or “drug injected by needle” that just might be hiding in our mini Three Musketeers bar. When we got home from trick-or treating during the Non-Zodiac Years, we had to line up and pass our bags over to Dad for official inspection. Dad would check for pin holes and the like in our candy wrappers. Many times he would have to taste test our candy to be sure they were safe for us. He had to taste test A LOT of our candy. Well, he didn’t want a cherry bomb to blow our cheek off.

One time I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad’s lecture telling us not to eat candy at night and I snuck lots of candy from my trick-or-treat bag right before bed, and proceeded to eat most of it. That night, I had the dreaded “eating-candy-before-bedtime nightmare.” About werewolves. Dancing werewolves. If you missed that post, click here, or here (I tend to write about those werewolves quite a bit, apparently).

I don’t eat candy before bed any more. And I sleep with a gun loaded with silver bullets.

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I’m sitting here looking at my Netflix copy of “Twilight: New Moon.” No, I didn’t see it at the theater. I’m not a Twihard, or a Twimom. I did see the first one, but none after that. Now I need to watch it so I can write an article about it for work. But I changed my mind; I’m more interested in working on this blog post so Edward and Bella will have to wait. Maybe for an eternity.

When I was a kid there was a certain awesome soap opera we loved. Not the type of soap opera you’re thinking of like “Days of Our Lives” or “General Hospital.” Though I admit I did love “Days.” That’s what we called it. My Mom loved “Days” and as kids we’d watch it, too. I can remember coming home from my full half-day of kindergarten and Mom would have a nice little lunch prepared: usually a half PBJ sandwich (or something like Land ‘o Frost turkey luncheon meat with American Cheese), a serving of potato chips, a half an orange and a glass of milk. Mom would bring the tiny kid table out into the living room so I could sit and eat my lunch with her, Dr. and Mrs. Horton and the rest of the “Days of Our Lives” family.

Even when I was in college, everyone would schedule their classes around “Days” so we could be home to watch it. No, we didn’t have DVR’s to record it, or even VCR’s for that matter. Shoot, if we wanted to rent a video in college to play drinking games along with, we had to go to the one video store in town that had about 50 actual VCR’s that you could rent, because no one actually owned a VCR then. We’d have to put down about an $80 dollar deposit to take one of those VCR’s home for the night, too, and that’s a lot of beer money. Watching a video was something special back then, so we’d make sure we had a lot of people over and a lot of beer , and hopefully a rented copy of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to laugh at—and to drink to every time Pee Wee did something ridiculous. Yes, we got pretty wasted.

As I was saying, “Days” was a pretty big deal. Soap operas in general were a big deal. But the one awesome soap opera I referred to earlier wasn’t “Days” or “General Hospital” (even though John Stamos’ character, Blackie, was the stuff dreams are made of), or even “The Young and the Restless.” I’m talking about the granddaddy gothic version of them all: “Dark Shadows.”

http://www.retrothing.com

I’m sorry if you’re too young to know about Dark Shadows. It was the creepiest, campiest thing ever, and we loved it. I can’t remember specifics about the series, probably because I was just a little kid and I imagine I covered my eyes a lot. But the star was Barnabus Collins, a bonafide vampire, along with other creatures of the night all living (or not living) in some mansion in coastal Maine.

http://www.screened.com

“Dark Shadows” also featured ladies with names like Angelique and Victoria to make it fancy. My sisters and I always loved scary stuff when we were little (still do) and “Dark Shadows” was the highlight of many an afternoon. It was second only to “Creature Features” on Saturday nights with that show’s creepy, campy host, Bob Wilkins.

I think Dark Shadows is available on Netflix, so I’m gonna return this New Moon thing and throw Barnabus into my queue. Then, I think I’ll go string myself a garlic necklace just for good measure.

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Mary Ann was big on dessert. Even with our limited budget, we could usually count on something sweet after dinner, even if it was orange-colored jello with canned mandarin oranges swimming around in it. If it was Payday Week, that jello might be a fancy Jello 1-2-3 concoction. Jello 1-2-3 was a sophisticated dessert that consisted of a layer of jello, with a layer of half jello and half whipped cream on top of that, then finished off with a layer of whipped cream. My Mom would create separate little Jello 1-2-3’s in fancy glasses that she’d tip and rest on the wall of the refrigerator while the jello layers set so they would be diagonally delicious.

But you had to clean your plate in order to get dessert. And hopefully dinner wasn’t too late, because she wouldn’t give us sweets too close to bedtime. That would cause nightmares. And we had to be careful what we watched on TV or what we read before bedtime. So Mom had a big book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes that she’d read to us when we were little. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Guess again. That thing did more damage than three servings of Jello 1-2-3 eaten after 9 p.m. C’mon, just look at this woman … scary!

I’m convinced that the parents of serial killers read their children beddie-bye stories every night when they were little, consisting of fairy tales, nursery rhymes and other messed-up fable-type crap. C’mon, these fairly tales weren’t about fairies. They were about scary monsters, wicked witches and blood-thirsty wolves. Crack open one of those classic tales for the kiddies, fill their heads full of terror, then turn out the lights and shut the door. Sweet dreams sweet pea!!

If you don’t believe me, let me remind you of these classic fairy tales and fables:

1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch kidnaps children, witch prepares to eat children, children throw witch in fire.
2. Little Red Riding Hood: Wolf dresses up as Grandma, wolf eats little girl.
3. Peter and the Wolf: Wolf threatens little boy, wolf eats duck. Poor Sonia.
4. The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Little boy fakes wolf attack, little boy fakes wolf attack, little boy fakes wolf attack. Wolf gets sick of being falsely accused and eats little boy for dinner with some fava beans.

Resulting nightmare: My little sister Coleen being eaten by a giant wolf in our backyard.

Secondary nightmare: Three werewolves wearing polo shirts and shorts tying me up in the backyard. Luckily I wake up screaming before they eat me. Phew. Wait, this one could be the result of too many Saturday night viewings of “Creature Features.

5. Snow White: Witch gives girl poisoned apple; girls goes into a coma.
6. Jack and the Beanstalk: Giant terrifies little boy. Boy goes into a coma, or gets eaten or thrown in an oven. I can’t remember.

Nursery rhymes were no picnic either:

London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down
London bridge is falling down, my fair lady
Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.
Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady.

I guess London Bridge was always in a state of disrepair and constantly being rebuilt? Who knows. I don’t even think the lyrics above are correct — that’s just the way we learned them when we were little. Though I did always wonder, why were they locking HER up? I thought they should’ve locked up my next-door-neighbor/best friend Randy for being such a brat.

Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes, we all fall DOWN!

I don’t know how many times all of us kids held hands and danced around in a circle singing this happy tune, oblivious to the fact that a pocket full of posies was supposedly intended to mask the smell of the Black Plague death surrounding us, and the ashes falling down were the result of cities and bodies burning around us … and then we DIE! Woo-hoo!! Ahh, good times.

Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Anyone have the number for Children’s Services?

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down, and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Wait, maybe someone should call 911 first. Then Children’s Services.

Go tell Aunt Rhodie, go tell Aunt Rhodie,
Go tell Aunt Rhodie the old grey goose is dead.

So much for Christmas dinner, kids.

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This was some comfort food I used to love smelling as it was cooking in my Grandma and Grandpa Coen’s house. It usually meant an evening full of cousins sprawled on the living room floor watching “Creature Features” while the old folks played poker, smoked, cussed and drank Oly in the dining room. Oly is short for Olympia, which was apparently the best damn beer in a can you could get in the ‘70s … or more likely, the cheapest. “Creature Features,” if you don’t know about because you didn’t grow up in the Bay Area, was an awesome horror movie show that played on Saturday nights. There was a cool, somewhat weird, host named Bob Wilkins and he would talk about the scary movies they were playing that night. These were usually “B” movies (maybe “C”) that aspired to be as bad as movies like “War of the Gargantuas” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Bob had Buddy Holly glasses and smoked a big cigar, and in hindsight, I bet that thing was full of weed, because he was just way too mellow. And you had to love the funky ’70s intro song for the show:

Anyway, my sweet little Grandma Coen only stood about 5 feet tall, but she had a big presence. She was everyone’s favorite. My Dad said that when he and his brothers were teenagers they would get in some knock-down, drag-out fist fights, and little Grandma would jump in the center to try and break them up. They would stop pummeling each other long enough to pick up little Grandma and set her gently aside, and then go back to pounding each other. As adults, they still called her Mama. And Grandpa was Daddy. But to us kids, Grandpa was B.K. That’s short for Benjamin Kenneth. Remember, given names are just a bit too much for the Coen clan. Just educating you all for future blog posts.

Grandma and Grandpa knew the hardship of the Great Depression and could make a meal out of anything. While Grandma was no chef, she sure put a lot of love into her cooking. And she loved making elbow macaroni with red sauce. I loved eating dinner at her house, because, well, that meant I didn’t have to eat dinner at my house. The only thing that sucked at dinnertime was that there was a large dining room table that fit 10 people (the adult table), and a Formica dinette that seated four. I’ll be DAMNED if I ever moved my way up from the little kid table in the kitchen to the glorious, expansive dining room table. I was always stuck at the little one with the two youngins, my little sister, Pooh, and my little cousin, Robbie (usually still wearing the blue eye shadow we applied while trying to dress him up like a girl earlier in the evening). They were seven years younger than me. My oldest sister, Tracy, was always at the adult table, and my younger sister, Coleen, who outgrew me at age 9, even made it to the adult table before me. I did actually sit at the adult table once when I was about 29, but there was nobody there for me to show-off for. I’m not even sure Grandma remembered which grandkid I was by then.

Recipe For Elbow Macaroni with Red Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef
1 bag of elbow macaroni
4 cans of tomato sauce
2 cans of tomato paste
2 can-fulls of water (pick whichever can you want, the sauce or the paste, it’s a crap-shoot)
Salt and pepper to taste (you might want to taste a lot)

Pour sauce, paste and water into a large pot and simmer on low.

Fry the ground beef, and Lordy! Don’t drain the fat!! Pour it all into the pot that is heating up the sauce and water.

Boil the macaroni as directed. When the macaroni is done, pour that into the pot also, and then season with salt and pepper. And season again. Maybe again.

Don’t forget to serve this with some sliced white bread and a cube of butter. Make sure the butter is still cold enough to tear up the bread a little.

If you’re feeling ambitious, heat up some canned green beans on the stove.

And please open a can of black olives so the kids have something to put on their fingertips.

When everything is ready, signal to the well-behaved grandkid who won the right to ring the little dinner bell — the dinner bell attached to a tiny wooden plaque on the kitchen wall which reads, “Good Bread, Good Meat, Good Gosh, Let’s Eat!” Yeah, the bell was a real thing. It’s hanging in my Dad’s kitchen now:

 

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