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Friday, October 31, 2014

Kathy Shaidle: Lessons on Being a Grown-Up from… Vincent Price?

The Seventies was a lousy time to be a kid.
Oh, sure, it wasn’t all bad:
We didn’t wear bike helmets. Our parents made us play outside (“Get out of this house, and don’t come back ’til the street lights come on!”).We “bounced around in the back of the station wagon.” No one was allergic to peanut butter, or very much else.
Evel Knievel was a role model.
But something freakish, sinister, and incomprehensible was always being talked about, over at the Me Decade’s grown ups’ table:
Watergate (which had something to do with “bugs” invading America, I concluded; men in suits talked about it on TV so much, they interrupted my lunchtime Flintstones for months), the Patty Hearst kidnapping, Vietnam, Jimmy Carter, Bicentennial toilet seats, The Gong Show, hijackings, the Loud family, D.B. Cooper, divorce, things called “muggings,” crying Indians, gas station lineups and an unprecedented combination of high inflation, unemployment, and interest rates that adults muttered about in worried voices just out of earshot.
Epitomized by Howard Hughes’ will, fakery was epidemic:
We decorated our houses with plastic flowers and fruit. Squeaking drugstore paperback racks were laden with books about astrology, crypto-zoology, alien astronauts, and other junk history. “Everyone knew” that some all-powerful “They” had gotten away with killing the Kennedys and King. What chance did a timid, puny seven-year-old girl have?
If a rich child porn aficionado could bury a bunch of kids in their school bus, what the hell couldn’t happen?
A kid needed a break.
If you lived in my part of the world, starting around 1971, that respite came in the form of a cheap local TV show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

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