Spin Again Sunday: Mork & Mindy Game, 1979

morkmindybox

The world lost one its most beloved entertainers in 2014. The role that first brought Robin Williams into the national spotlight also catapulted him onto toy-store shelves in 1979. Mork & Mindy spawned a card game, as well as a board game. I was in fourth grade when Mork & Mindy hit the airwaves, and it wasn’t long before my classmates were wearing rainbow suspenders and trying to speak Orkan. I’m sure many of us had this game; I remember playing it, but I’m not sure whether I owned it or a friend did.

This Week’s Game: Mork & Mindy Game.

Copyright Date: 1979.

Manufacturer: Parker Brothers.

Box: A full-color photo of the title characters spreads across the whole lid. It’s strange, though, that Parker Brothers chose a shot that provides a better view of Mindy’s face than Mork’s. He was unquestionably the show’s main draw, especially for young viewers.

The back of the box provides and black-and-white photo of the game board and an explanation of the game. And this game does require quite a bit of explaining.

The back of the box features a black-and-white photo of the game board and an explanation of the game. And this game does require quite a bit of explaining.

Recommended Ages: 7 to 14.

Object: Collecting more “grebbles” than other players. These, apparently, are Orkan coins.

morkmindyboard

Board: Against a green background, we have an oval game track in vivid shades of pink, purple, red, and orange. These spaces prominently feature Orkan words like “wump,” “splink,” and “nimnul.”

morkmindyboardcloseup2

Illustrations of Mork and Mindy surround the track, and Mork does dominate here–he shows up twice as often as Mindy. (These illustrations are pretty good as game-board art goes and much better than those on the card game I linked above.)

morkmindyboardcloseup

A large egg labeled “Orson’s Nest Egg” fills up one corner, while the opposite corner shows six small egg-shaped spaces and a “Gleek Space.”

morkmindypieces

Game Pieces: The game includes 50 Grebble coins, which players try to collect. As pawns, they use colored cardboard markers that slide into a plastic base. One cardboard marker has the word Gleek on it; a player who rolls a six slides it into his or her plastic base along with the regular marker.

The game also includes Mork's splinkblinker, which I'll try to explain below.

The game also includes Mork’s splinkblinker, which I’ll try to explain below.

Game Play: The grebbles start the game in Orson’s Nest Egg. Players move around the track and do a lot of splinking, which is apparently Orkan for bluffing. The player who lands on an “Everybody Splink” space drops both dice into the splinkblinker. He or she looks at the numbers showing, turns to the player on the left and announces any two numbers. The player on the left says “Kayo” if he or she believes the original player and “Shazbot” if he or she thinks the original player is lying. If the second player has guessed correctly, he or she wins two grebbles. Otherwise, the original player wins the grebbles. The splinking process repeats around the table until everyone has had a chance to guess.

Other spaces give players a chance to take grebbles from other players, to win grebbles by “making contact” with Orson, and to place a grebble in the “Grebble Up” row of eggs. A player who completes a row of at least three grebbles in the “Grebble Up” row wins them all.

morkmindyboardcloseup3

The player who roles a six and possesses the “gleek” (until another player roles a six) has his or her grebble-earning power doubled and can’t lose grebbles to other players.

When Orson’s Nest Egg is empty, the player with the most grebbles wins.

“Sound confusing? Sound exciting? Sound like daffy fun?” the box asks. Well…confusing, certainly.

My Thoughts: It seems a bit over-complicated. I’m not sure my friends and I would have made it through a whole game, but we would have had fun spouting Orkan words at each other.

Bonus Feature: If reading about the game has made you want to revisit Mork & Mindy, this Season 1 gag reel is lots of fun. Be forewarned however: There’s strong language here, and it’s not Orkan.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

Happy Days

Laverne & Shirley

Charlie’s Angels

 

 

 

 

 

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Embarrassing Treasures Field Trip: The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2013

They had me at Margaret O’Brien.

I don’t remember what made me browse the web site for the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention earlier this year, but as soon as I saw Margaret O’Brien on the celebrity list, I ordered my tickets.

MANC takes place each fall in Baltimore. For three days, celebrities make themselves available for autograph signings and Q&A sessions; experts hold seminars on old-time radio, classic television, and classic movie topics; vendors sell movie posters, books, and other collectibles; and classic screen performances play in the Movie Room.

I’ve thought about attending before (and I really wish I’d attended in 2009, when Johnny Whitaker and one-time Family Affair guest star Lee Meriwether were guests). The chance to see my favorite child star in person stirred me into seizing the moment. It’s a sad reality that few golden-age stars remain with us, and we lose more every year.

This was the first nostalgia convention I’ve attended, and what follows is a brief, impressionistic review. Unfortunately, it lacks photos—I forgot to pack my camera, and my iPhone images didn’t turn out well.

Educational Sessions

Mornings at MANC are devoted to presentations on vintage entertainment topics. The presenters are people who’ve invested enormous time into learning about their subject. John C. Abbott, for instance, has produced an exhaustive three-volume work called The Who is Johnny Dollar? Matter about radio’s famous insurance investigator. He’s analyzed not only the remaining recorded episodes but those that exist only in script form. He can tell you everything from Johnny’s address to how many times he’s been shot.

Sally Stephens talked about Gracie Allen’s 1940 run for the presidency, a months-long joke that played out on several radio shows and in live appearances. Stephens effectively integrated radio clips into her presentation, which made her topic come alive.

Joanna Wilson gave a great presentation on TV adaptions of A Christmas Carol. I’d been eagerly anticipating this presentation for two reasons:

  • I love TV Christmas specials and episodes.
  • Wilson is a fellow Classic TV Blog Association member, and I hoped to meet her and to purchase her book, ‘Tis the Season TV.

Wilson’s presentation didn’t disappoint–her passion for her subject matter really came through, and the audience responded with similar enthusiasm. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of straight A Christmas Carol adaptations. (What does it say about me that my favorite theatrical version features the Muppets?) I still enjoyed learning about all the versions TV has produced, and I was glad that Wilson touched on many of my favorite Dickens-influenced TV episodes, including ones from The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, The Avengers, and Family Ties.

It was fun to meet another blogger, and I’m enjoying Wilson’s book, which I highly recommend to all Christmas TV fans.

(Be sure to read her convention recap, too–it has pictures!)

Author Gene Blottner did a presentation on film noir star Audrey Totter and made good use of clips from Totter’s career.

Garyn Roberts, a noted Ray Bradbury scholar, hosted a celebration of the author and gave another talk about Dick Tracy in popular culture.

Celebrity Appearances

As Ed Asner walked into his Q&A session, his cell phone rang. Nodding to the audience, he quipped, “It’s for you.”

This was the perfect introduction for Asner, who was as gruff, unfiltered, and entertaining as you would expect. He had high praise for many of his former co-stars, especially Ted Knight from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Nancy Marchand from Lou Grant. (He also had high praise for Marchand’s legs.) 

Johnny Crawford from The Rifleman appeared on a panel with Jeff Connors, real-life son of Rifleman star Chuck Connors. Both men recalled the elder Connors with affection. Crawford said that Connors was protective toward him on the set; no director who treated Crawford unkindly would continue working on the show.

Crawford reminisced about some of his favorite guest stars on the show, including John Anderson and Royal Dano. He especially enjoyed working with two-time guest star Sammy Davis Jr., who loved Westerns.

His favorite episodes from the show are “The Pet” and “The Sharpshooter.” (Sam Peckinpah wrote the latter’s script.)

All the talk about the show’s warm father-son dynamic inspired me to make The Rifleman a regular part of my Me-TV viewing.

Crawford also talked his experiences as a first-season Mouseketeer and joked about his crush on Karen, which Cubby thwarted.

Julie Newmar shared a Q&A session with Elizabeth Shepherd, a British actress best known for her role in 1964’s The Tomb of Ligeia, as well as her status as The Avengers‘ first Emma Peel. (Producers quickly replaced her with Diana Rigg, and the scenes that Shepherd shot for the show no longer exist.)

Newmar and Shepherd made an interesting study in contrasts. Newmar was expansive, dramatic, and occasionally random. (She sometimes interrupted Shepherd to ask her an off-the-wall question.) Shepherd was down-to-earth and good at telling stories, as when she described her perilous encounters with trained ravens during the filming of The Omen II.

Newmar said her ballet background gave her the cat-like physique that served her well in her famous Batman role. Her most challenging role was on the short-lived series My Living Doll because it was difficult to find the humanity in her robot character.

An experienced Shakespearean stage actress, Shepherd made an interesting point about theater being a burgeoning new field to the Elizabethans, as social media is to us today. She treated the MANC audience to an excellent dramatic recitation from Shakespeare.

(Note to the loud talker behind me who rarely shut his mouth throughout the Newmar and Shepherd Q&A: Not cool. Seriously. When everyone around you is glaring, it’s time to shut up.)

Margaret O’Brien exuded graciousness throughout her presentation.

She had good things to say about nearly everyone she worked with, from Charles Laughton (“He was wonderful”) to Lionel Barrymore (“He was almost like a grandfather”) to Judy Garland (“She loved children”).

She even had a good relationship with studio head Louis B. Mayer, who wanted to marry her mother, glamorous flamenco dancer Gladys Flores.

O’Brien talked again and again about the supportive, protective role her mother played in her life. Flores made sure that O’Brien got the salary she deserved for Meet Me in Saint Louis. She kept O’Brien in line during the perilous teenage years, once busting her at a nightclub after she sneaked out with Natalie Wood. She kept the child-hating Wallace Beery from stealing O’Brien’s hot lunch on the set of Bad Bascomb. (Beery seemed to be the only person in Hollywood to earn O’Brien’s ire.)

It’s apparent that her mother’s influence kept O’Brien from the pitfalls of child stardom and enabled her to simply enjoy the movie-making process.

O’Brien, who traveled to Japan in 1952 to make the movie Girls Hand in Hand, talked about the importance of travel and getting to know people from other cultures. Again, she praised the influence of her mother, who served as her role model as a strong, independent woman.

“I never feel that I can’t do something,” O’Brien said.

Autographs and Vendors

The welcoming letter in the convention program noted that some people attend only to collect autographs, while skipping all the sessions. I took the opposite approach. I’ve never been an autograph collector, and I feel awkward approaching celebrities–there’s nothing that I could say that they haven’t heard thousands of times. MANC attracts a knowledgeable crowd, so audience members covered most of the questions I would have asked during the Q&A sessions. (I did hope to ask Robert Loggia about his work with Brian Keith on Disney’s Elfego Baca, but Loggia is in frail health, and I couldn’t bring myself to bother him.)

For those who do want to collect autographs, MANC is ideal. Celebrities are available for long periods throughout the three-day conference, so lines stay short, and fans have time to chat with their favorite stars.

Vendor tables lined the main hallway leading to the seminar room. When I didn’t see anything I wanted there, I figured the spending money I brought with me was safe. On the second day, I realized that many more vendors were offering their wares on another floor. I picked up a few vintage books and magazines and a set of Dr. Doolittle paper dolls. I also bought several current books, including books about Peggy Ann Garner and 1950s live television by author Sandra Grabman, who attended the convention.

My only regret was that I didn’t find any good games for future Spin Again Sunday posts.

My overall experience at MANC was wonderful, and I would highly recommend it to all fans of vintage entertainment. The $15-a-day admission price is a small price to pay for seeing your favorite stars in person and hearing from experts on interesting topics. I hope to go again in coming years. (I definitely will if Kathy Garver appears–I’m not missing another Family Affair star!)

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Vacation Time, Part 1

Summer is drawing to a close, and schools are up and running in many areas. If it’s too late for you to take a vacation, you can at least enjoy virtual travel through the magic of old-time radio.

Kew_Beach_Toronto_1934Papa Wants a Vacation”
Mama Bloom’s Brood
, Unknown Date, 1934


“All work and no play makes Jake a dull boy.”
About Mama Bloom’s Brood: This pleasant 15-minute comedy serial focuses on a Jewish family with two grown daughters.
Story: Papa doesn’t want a vacation, until Mama works on him.
Destination: Yellowstone National Park.
Wish you were there? Sure, if you can tolerate Mama’s malapropisms.

“Beach House”
Baby Snooks, May 19, 1938


“A daybed’s a sofa that’s made up at night as a bed, and during the day it’s a couch, which nobody sleeps on, so a daybed is really a night bed except it’s not a bed at all.”
About Baby Snooks: Throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, Fanny Brice played her famous Snooks character in variety show sketches like this one.
Story: Snooks wreaks havoc on the family’s vacation home.
Destination: The seashore, to Daddy’s chagrin.
Wish you were there? With Snooks? No way! She does $400 in damage at the vacation rental. That’s more than $6,000 in today’s money!

“Vacation from a Vacation”
Vic and Sade, August 15, 1944


“It’s the hot weather, as much as anything.”
Story: Uncle Fletcher is driving Sade crazy on his “vacation” at her home.
Destination: Three blocks away.
Wish You Were There? Maybe—but you’d probably need a vacation from Uncle Fletcher before long.

“Going to Grass Lake”
The Great Gildersleeve, September 2, 1945


“Why, I could be busy every minute if I wanted to…I just don’t want to.”
Story: The kids try to talk a reluctant Gildy into a weekend at the lake.
Historical Footnotes: The references to the war’s end and reconversion to a peacetime economy are interesting.
Destination: Grass Lake, obviously.
Wish You Were There?
Only if you have a burning desire to share Judge Hooker’s bed in a honeymoon cottage.

“Morgan Vacation Travel Bureau”
Henry Morgan, May 28, 1947


“Their slogan is, “Fellows are rarin’ to go on lovely Lake Schmoe.”
Story: In a series of sketches, the travel bureau one is the highlight.
About Henry Morgan: Morgan was edgy and irreverent by the standards of his time, and he drove sponsors crazy by making fun of their products.
Destination
: Lovely Camp Schmoe.
Wish You Were There? Sure–you get a great “cherce” of activities. I’d avoid the snake hunt, though.
Bonus Feature: In their tone, Morgan’s shows have always reminded me of early David Letterman, so I was excited to find this 1982 clip of Letterman interviewing Morgan.

Other Old-Time Radio playlists you might enjoy:

Halloween, Part 1

Halloween, Part 2

London Calling, Part 1

Spin Again Sunday: The Muppet Show (Le Jeu des Vedettes)

Because tomorrow is Jim Henson’s birthday, my weekly series on vintage board games has a Muppety flavor this week.

Today’s Game: The Muppet Show (Parker Brothers Board Game of the Stars, AKA Le Jeu des Vedettes, par Parker Brothers)

Copyright Date: 1979

Game Box: A colorful cartoon rendering of every Muppet imaginable. That’s why I bought this game for my daughter. She loves Janice, the Electric Mayhem’s female member, and it’s rare to find merchandise that includes Janice’s picture. Not only does this box feature Janice, but the game board does as well!

Most Interesting Feature: What I didn’t realize when I bought this game is that it was made in Canada and has a bilingual board–one side in French, one side in English. I actually felt a little peeved when I opened the box and found a French board. I only speak un peu de French and didn’t know how I would manage to play this with my daughter. When I flipped the board over and found the English side, I no longer felt peeved—just stupid for not noticing the French writing on the box.

French game instructions.

Game Pieces: Rather lame. You know how some game pieces have a plastic base, into which you slide a cardboard picture? Well, that’s what this game has, but the cardboard pieces don’t display characters—just colors. There’s a yellow one, a red one, a green one, and a blue one. Why not just use regular colored-plastic markers?

Janice, yay!

Recommended Ages: 7 to 14.

Game Play: The game designers came up with a concept relates well to The Muppet Show and its characters. Players move around the board and try to collect cards representing three judges—Miss Piggy, Sweetums, and Fozzie. Once you have all three, you can “perform” for the judges. That involves picking one of six Sam the Eagle cards and hoping that it doesn’t match the number your opponent rolls on the die. If you don’t match Sam, you receive a star; seven stars win the game. The rules have a few wrinkles—such as allowing players to “upstage” each other—that keep it from getting too repetitive. Sam is one of my favorite Muppets, so I enjoy his role as censor here.

My Thoughts: I owned a different Muppet Show game when I was little, one that dated from 1977. I don’t remember much about that game, but I can endorse this one as fun for young Muppet fans.

Guiding Light Memories

My Guiding Light memories taste like iced tea.

In my grandmother’s aluminum-sided ranch outside Pittsburgh, the iced tea was fresh-brewed, heavily sweetened, and served in 1940s gold-trimmed highball glasses. I would sip it and wait impatiently for my grandmother’s “stories” to end so I could watch Brady Bunch reruns, or Match Game, or anything else.

As the minutes passed, certain images seared themselves onto my young brain. Alan Spaulding and Hope Bauer floating on the wing of a downed plane. Barbara and Holly and Chrissie together—three redheads who caused my grandmother (a rather naïve television viewer) to wonder if the actresses were related in real life. Phillip’s adoptive and biological parents forming various marital configurations. Roger terrorizing Rita in a funhouse hall of mirrors. (By dressing up as a clown to lure Chrissie, Roger also terrorized my younger brother, who never forgot that unnerving scene.)

Later, in junior high, my best friend and I drank instant iced tea from amber crinkle glasses as we watched Guiding Light in her family room after school. While our peers who watched soaps followed General Hospital, we watched as Nola and Quint floated away toward marital bliss, Carrie broke down on the witness stand at her murder trial, and Phillip finally learned the truth about his parentage.

I started sneaking to the local convenience store to buy Soap Opera Digest with my own money because my dad considered soap magazines trash. I littered my diary with references like “GL was boring today” or “Can’t wait for GL tomorrow.”  In ninth grade, when a change in schools and a long bus ride made me miss most of the show, my absentee rate soared. I ordered a GL t-shirt by mail (and received, with it, the mid-1980s promotional brochure displayed in the gallery above). I kept watching, through Reva’s slut of Springfield speech, Bert’s death, Beth and Lujack’s romance. Once, I even convinced my dad to drive me and my best friend to a mall 20 miles away to see Vincent Irizarry in person.

I stopped watching briefly around 1986 when the show seemed adrift. Thankfully, I returned to see Michelle Forbes’ harrowing performance as Sonni/Solita and the brilliant period that followed. From about 1989 to 1994, the writing, the direction, and performances by actors like Michael Zaslow, Maureen Garrett, Beverlee McKinsey, Sherry Stringfield, Grant Aleksander, Beth Ehlers, Peter Simon, and the rest came together to create something perfect. At the end of each episode, when the announcer said, “This has been Guiding Light,” I felt sad that another hour had elapsed.

Three years ago this week, when the final GL episode aired, I cried throughout it, even though only the opening logo montage and Josh and Reva’s happy ending really resonated with me. The truth is, I was part of GL’s problem. I stopped watching in 1994 for what I thought would be a temporary break and never really found my way back. The times I tried to watch, it just didn’t capture my attention. I seemed to lose my taste for the genre’s conventions. (Bad writing didn’t help—in 2003, actors like Tom Pelphry and Gina Tognoni sucked me back in; the continuity-shredding Mary Ann Carruthers story sent me screaming for the exits.)

Hypocritcally, though, I wanted GL to last forever. I wanted to turn it on every Fourth of July to see the Bauer barbecue, to turn in on in December and watch Springfield residents preparing for Christmas while I was wrapping last-minute presents, to know that the show my grandmother had listened to on the radio was still airing every day, even if I couldn’t be bothered to watch it.

According to TV Tropes, Guiding Light “may be the longest recorded narrative in the entire history of mankind.”

Sometimes I wish entertainments could be declared historic landmarks, the way buildings are.

But, of course, entertainment is a business, and business doesn’t work that way. When tastes change, whole forms of entertainment die out. Soap opera audiences began declining sharply in the 1990s*, and now only four daytime soaps remain on the air.

When GL ended, the saddest part for me was knowing I might never be able to re-experience my favorite moments. Soap opera episodes were produced to be aired a single time and then forgotten. I’m thrilled with the Guiding Light DVDs Soap Classics has been releasing, and I will continue to gobble them up. I even ordered Guiding Light DVDs from Germany.

Watching these old episodes has helped me fall in love with the show all over again.

I only wish my grandmother was here to watch them with me, over a glass of iced tea.

*You can find an interesting discussion about the reasons for this decline here.

Wonder Women of the ’80s

What do you get when you combine Donna Summer, Erma Bombeck, Cheryl Tiegs, Judy Blume, Gloria Vanderbilt, Carol Burnett, and Rose Kennedy? An absolute dream cast for The Vagina Monologues? Well, yes. But you also get the Wonder Women of the 80’s (sic), according to this book that School Book Fairs, Inc., published in 1980. Rather audacious of author Garnet Topper to pick the decade’s wonder women when the decade had barely begun. By the way, while Garnet Topper sounds like a Gay-Head-style pseudonym, my cursory research suggests that it’s a real name.

A visit to Fairyland

1970

When I was a child, Fairyland was easy to reach. It was on State Highway 618 in Conneaut Lake, Pa.

Not exactly an enchanted land, this Fairyland offered encounters with fanciful fiberglass structures and a few live animals.

Fairyland Forest opened in 1960, just across the highway from Conneaut Lake Park. It was one of many story-book-themed parks that sprouted across the nation in the 1950s and 1960s to attract young baby boomers. According to Conneaut Lake Park: The First 100 Years of Fun by Lee O. Bush and Richard F. Hersey, Fairyland Forest drew enthusiastic crowds in its early years.

For my family, visiting Conneaut Lake was a summer tradition that started around 1970. We would travel with my maternal grandparents and rent a cottage or motel rooms near Conneaut Lake Park. And, every year, we spend a few hours strolling through Fairyland Forest.

1972

At some point, my grandfather took sole responsibility for this part of our vacation. I’m sure that gave my parents and my grandmother a nice break, and it also helped me and my brother create wonderful memories with our grandfather.

Fairyland Forest displayed scenes out of nursery rhymes (Humpty Dumpty, the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe), holidays (the Easter bunny), and Bible stories (Jonah and the whale, Noah’s ark), along with a few random touches (a big frog and turtle you could sit on—an irresistible photo op, at least for my family).

Past the displays, you found a petting zoo and a playground. Newspaper ads from the 1960s touted “over 100 little live animals that eat out of your hand.” I mostly remember deer and goats and some very aggressive geese.

Turtle has a boo-boo–and I’m wearing tube socks with sandals

You exited the park through a Windmill-shaped building that housed (surprise!) a gift shop.

I enjoyed our Fairyland Forest tradition so much that I never balked at going, even as I entered my teen years. Sentiment blinded me to the park’s deteriorating condition.

1982

We made our final trip in 1983, not knowing then that it would be our last. My grandfather died of lung cancer in 1984. Fairyland Forest closed in 1985, the victim of declining attendance.

A 1986 column in the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter proclaimed: “The demise of Fairyland Forest won’t be considered a loss by anyone who visited there the last few years. In 1983, the attractions were sorely in need of a paint job, and the array of animals displayed there resembled a petting zoo too large for its own good.”

1977

It was a loss to me, though. For years after my grandfather died, I figured I would never return to Conneaut. I thought seeing the RV camping facility that replaced Fairyland Forest would hurt too much. By 1997, my feelings changed, and now I try to support the struggling Conneaut Lake Park with an annual visit.

I take my daughter to Idlewild’s Storybook Forest to give her the Mother Goose experience.

And I journey back to Fairyland in old photos and my memories.