Friday, July 20, 2007


(West End Girl)

Last week, [Dayton Daily News] co-columnist Tony Riazzi waxed nostalgic about being a child of the '80s. I'm not sure of Mr. Riazzi's age, but I'd bet my parachute pants and jelly shoes that he's younger than I am. So it is with the utmost smugness that I say, "Mr. Riazzi, I knew the '80s. The '80s were a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no child of the '80s."

To be fair, anyone born during or shortly before that particular decade technically is a child of the '80s. By that logic, I could call myself a child of the '60s, even though a "sit-in" was what I did in the corner when I was in trouble and the only Woodstock I knew was Snoopy's feathered friend. No, my true wonder years were the '70s and '80s.

You see, to be a true '80s child (according to the rules I just made up), one's age would have to have been in double digits by 1980. I'm not minimizing my colleague's '80s experience, but there's a big difference between experiencing the ‘80s as a mere tadpole and seeing them through teenage eyes. It’d be like comparing apples and oranges – or Papa Smurf and J.R. Ewing.

Gather around, young’uns, Grandma’s gonna tell you about life as an ‘80s teenager. Back then, when the working day was done, girls just wanted to have fun, so we popped in our Michael Jackson Thriller cassette tapes (I’ll explain later) and partied like it was 1999.

As Mr. Riazzi said, men were men in the ‘80s – like Hulk Hogan, for instance. But just as often, dude looked like a lady. Exhibit 1: Boy George. OK, dude looked like a bag lady on steroids. But we loved him, anyway. ‘Cos it takes diff’rent strokes to move the world.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of fashion. We wore slouch socks with mini-skirts and looked, like, totally awesome. We wore leg warmers with mini-skirts and looked, like, tubular to the max. We wore biker shorts with mini-skirts and looked like DA BOMB.

We’d put on our penny loafers, pegged jeans and fluorescent T-shirts, and boogie-oogie-oogie till we just couldn’t boogie no more at 1470 West – not the one that used to be downtown, but the original one in Kettering. When Whitney Houston wanted to dance with somebody, we were so excited we just couldn’t hide it.

On many a weekend – and summer weekdays – we’d gather in brat packs to hang out at the Arcade, buying the newest 45’s (I’ll explain later) and thumbing through the latest issues of 16 and Tiger Beat until the security guard chased us out of McCrory’s. Those were our "glory days," as Springsteen would say.

Well, kiddies, I’d love to regale you with more tales of the good ol’ days, but I can see by my Swatch watch that it’s time for my nap. Feel free to stick around and watch some videos – I’ve got VHS and Beta, take your pick. Just make sure to wake me up before you go-go.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Big hair is an AFRO-disiac


I have afro envy.

With the afro making a comeback in the last few years, I’ve often thought, "Sure would be nice to not have to wonder how I’m gonna fix my hair today." Unfortunately, my hair is of a length, weight and texture that doesn’t lend itself well to such a hairstyle. Oh, I can rock the "half-fro," wherein the hair fans out on either side a la Roseanne Rosannadanna, but I can’t achieve the altitude required for adequate afro-ness.

I want an afro of such gargantuan proportions that I’d have to turn sideways to walk through a door, like O.J. Simpson’s Nordberg in Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult. I want a mystical mountain of magic like Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo’s in the Shonen Jump anime series.

When I was 8, the reigning queen of blaxploitation filmdom was Pam Grier, who boasted a halo of hair that made the Jackson 5 look like the Hair Club for Men. Nobody messed aroun’ with Foxy Brown, ‘cos she packed a revolver. In her afro! In Coffy, Grier was "the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town," according to movie posters. Anyone doubting her badness came away minus a few fingers, thanks to the razor blades hidden in her ‘fro – an essential accessory when engaging in hair-pulling catfights. I had no desire to use my hair as a weapons arsenal; I just wanted to look like the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit the fourth grade.

Around the same time, there was Tamara Dobson – sort of a decaf Coffy, if you will. At 6’2, Dobson was the tallest leading lady in film, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which didn’t factor in the groovy platforms and funkadelic ‘fro that put Dobson near 7 feet tall in Cleopatra Jones.

"Hair's like a woman. You treat it good and it treats you good," says Doodlebug, a character in the movie. "You gotta hold it, caress it and love it." But no amount of holding, caressing and loving would give me an awesome blossom like the one on Cleo’s head.

Being afro-tastic transcends race and ethnicity. Just look at the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter. With the exception of Vinnie Barbarino, the Sweathogs were a veritable United Nations of afro-osity. Mr. Kotter (Jewish), Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (black), and Juan Epstein (Puerto Rican Jew) all were fine specimens of afro-hood. I’m not sure what Arnold Horshack’s ancestry was, but he definitely inherited the afro gene.

If I want to achieve even a semi-respectable facsimile of an afro, I have two options. One would be to buzz my locks to about 3-4 inches, the length at which it begins to form single curls instead of spirals. But this would leave me with what we referred to in my childhood as a "TWA" – Teeny-Weeny Afro – thus defeating the purpose.

The alternative would be to torture my hair with no fewer than 283 tightly wound, microscopic curlers and enough Aqua Net to obliterate the ozone layer. It hardly seems worth the effort, since half a day of humidity would transform me from Erykah Badu to Erykah Ba-don’t.