Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day.

Something about Groundhog Day makes me a little introspective every year. I know…weird. Most people don’t even notice Groundhog Day, and they haven’t even thought about it since they were kids. Well, I’m not “most people.”For a variety of reasons, Groundhog Day has meaning to me.

My godmother was born on Groundhog Day. She passed away in April 2020, during the first round of pandemic shutdowns. On the day she died, a bluebird “harassed” me as I walked through our neighborhood. OK, “harassed” is a strong word. Maybe I should just say a bluebird followed me. It flew around me, and it landed on a mailbox in front of me, as if it were waiting for me to approach. As I got closer, it dropped down to the ground and just watched me…from really close. I thought it was odd at the time, but a couple of days later, I learned that my godmother had passed that day. She loved “bluebirds of happiness.” She had given my mother some glass bluebirds of happiness that I sent back to her after Mother died. Was the bluebird’s visit really a visit from her? I’ll never know, but Happy Heavenly Birthday to Cynthia!

Also on Groundhog Day, I started my blog in 2018, a little over a month after my mother passed away. I was nervous about putting myself out there, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone I know has always been so supportive and gracious. And I’d like to think some of my own experiences have helped others. Plus, I have quite the record of crazy stories from my life for my daughter to read later…long after I’m gone.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the whole idea of Groundhog Day when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavy, told us about it. I was five, and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of a groundhog (which I had never seen in south Alabama) coming out to look for its shadow! And the idea that it would predict how much winter was left was incredible to me! I took it at face value. I truly believed that groundhog knew something the rest of us didn’t. Oh, to be five years old again! My five-year-old self was full of wonder and soaking it all in! And Groundhog Day gives me a day to remember what it felt like to be five years old. For the record, I did check on ol’ Punxsutawney Phil today. He saw his shadow, which means he predicts six more weeks of winter for us. I’m OK with that. Winter is short in the Carolinas. I need opportunities to wear my winter clothes and shoes!

And then, there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a silly movie, of course. The whole idea of reliving the same day over and over and over is preposterous! But there are days I would love to live over and over…especially if I could alter the course they take on each subsequent day till I got it perfect. Remember how Murray’s character starts each day with his alarm clock playing Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe? That song is, of course, a favorite from my childhood, when I would spend one night a week watching The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in front of our big, Zenith console TV in the family den. The duo ended every episode with that song, and sometimes, they would bring out their cute little girl, Chastity, to sing with them. But it’s not the song that makes the movie special. It’s just a way of letting the viewer know the same day is being replayed. It’s the whole concept that I love…keep doing it over and over till you get it right. I would have a hard time picking what day I would want to live over and over, if I could pick.

But for all the joy and good memories Groundhog Day brings me, I know there are people who have lost loved ones on this day…one family, in particular, who lost their 16-year-old daughter/sister eight years ago. I know it’s a heartbreaking day for them and many others out there. So every Groundhog Day, I say a little prayer for them. As much as these types of anniversaries can be difficult, sometimes they bring us peace, as they force us to remember the loved one.

Whatever Groundhog Day means to you, I hope you see some bluebirds of happiness instead of your shadow.

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious.

Anyone who has ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film based on the Ian Fleming novel, knows who Truly Scrumptious is. Played by the late Sally Ann Howes, the character becomes the love interest of Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke. When I was a little girl, I thought Truly Scrumptious was beautiful…and she was.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is, quite possibly, my favorite film of all time. Well, that and Mary Poppins, which also happened to star Mr. Van Dyke. I loved both films then, and I love both films now…and the soundtracks! I feel sure I wore out both LPs on my record player as a child. In fact, I have both soundtracks on But the first time I went to the movie theater to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I didn’t see the whole movie. I was a little girl, and we were visiting our cousins in Florida. I’m not sure how old I was…three or four? My mother took a bunch of us to the theater in downtown Marianna, Florida, but I think she spent half the movie outside on the sidewalk with me. The child catcher in the movie terrified me, and being a particularly strong-willed child (imagine!), I refused to sit through the movie. Later, when I was eight or nine, I grew to love the movie, but even then, the child catcher scared me…not enough to make me leave the room when he appeared, but he scared me…much like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz and the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost. If you know, you know.

I have a favorite scene in CCBB…the doll scene near the end of the movie in which Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious, disguised as dolls, begin their rescue of the children. Oh, I still find the scene glorious! You can see it here.

Fast forward more than 35 years, and I had a daughter of my own. When she was two or three, I introduced her to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang via DVD, and she fell in love with the movie. This was a child who had no interest in animated movies like Cinderella, Bambi, or The Fox and The Hound…but she loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, she wanted to watch it all the time. Specifically, she had a scene she loved. The doll scene? Nope. The flying car scene? Nope. My child loved the child catcher scene…the very scene that terrified me as a child…she found it hilarious! Who knew any child could find that hilarious?!?! But she did. And she wanted to see that scene over and over and over.

Since you know that, you won’t be surprised at all to know she found the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost hilarious. And the flying monkeys and wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz? Also hilarious. Wow…I had a brave child. Even as a little girl, she would laugh at the special effects in Land of the Lost and The Wizard of Oz. The charm of one of the greatest films ever made was completely lost on her, because the wicked witch and the flying monkeys were funny…not just funny, but hilarious. Nonetheless, she still enjoyed watching both, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was her favorite…we still talk about it.

So today, when I learned Ms. Howe, the actress who played Truly Scrumptious had passed away at 91, I was a little sad. Frankly, I hadn’t even investigated whether she were still alive or not. I guess I just assumed, incorrectly, that she had died, but I shouldn’t have. Apparently, she lived a long, full life. And even though I cannot name one other film she was in, she has a special place in my heart as Truly Scrumptious.

I haven’t had the chance to tell my daughter yet, but I will tell her soon, and hopefully, she will sit down and watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me while we eat cake batter popcorn…just like old times. And I’ll drink a toast to Truly Scrumptious.

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Take Ten Seconds

A friend just shared on Facebook a video of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997. In his acceptance speech, the beloved Mr. Rogers asks if everyone will take “just 10 seconds to think about the people who have helped you become who you are…the ones who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” And he silently keeps time on his watch…just ten seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are. You can see a clip here.

I loved Mr. Rogers. It’s no secret. My friends have known that for years. In Pittsburgh a few years ago, I forced everyone in my party to visit the Heinz History Center to see the Mr. Rogers exhibit…some of the pieces from his television show. I was happy. I looked at all of it and thought how much my little girl self would have loved to see it all in person back in the 1970s. Mr. Rogers was a part of my childhood. If you are close to my age, he was likely a part of your childhood too. You likely know the theme song for his show. You likely remember some of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sure, we sometimes made fun of Mr. Rogers and his cardigans and practical shoes, but we all learned something from him.

And as it turns out, Mr. Rogers, in his acceptance speech, was still affecting people. In fact, he’s still affecting us today. That very video made me stop and think about something I hadn’t thought about before…the people who helped me become who I am.

For me, there are many…my parents, my family, some of my teachers, my college friends, other friends…you know, the usual. I won’t name any names, but there are other people who helped me become who I am, and some of them did not do it intentionally. You know who really helped me become who I am? People with whom I had a disagreement of some sort. Seriously. Think about that. When you have a disagreement with someone, it changes who you are…hopefully for the better. And I truly believe that, when I’ve had disagreements with folks, I have been introspective afterward…thinking about where I might have been right and where I might have been wrong. There are also people with whom I had a chance encounter…maybe they helped me carry my groceries; maybe they blessed my day; maybe they stopped me from doing something stupid; or maybe they encouraged me to take a risk I wouldn’t normally have taken. The list is long.

But the list of people who have cared about me along the way? I have a small family, so that list is not particularly long. I have some great friends with whom I will be friends till I die. And I’ve had other friends who aren’t still around, but they cared about me at some point, and I cared about them…and deep down inside, I truly care about anyone who was my friend at one time. Truth. And even if they don’t care about me, they still shaped me in some way.

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter affects us and shapes us in some way…maybe it’s a positive and maybe it’s a negative.

So stop and think about the people who have made you who you are. Sure, some of them cared about you. Some of them just affected you in a chance encounter. Be restrospective and introspective. And then, get out and go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Just seeing the movie trailer makes me cry, so when I go see it, I’ll have lots of tissues. I plan to see it within the next few days.

Crazy Movies We Love

This past weekend, my friend, Angela, and her daughter came in from Montgomery. It was my daughter’s 16th birthday, so we wanted them here for the festivities. The girls “partied” all weekend. When they were around us, we all shared some great meals. And Angela and I talked about our very favorite movies about exaggerated, deranged characters. Yes, we have favorites, and since it’s October, and we are leading up to Halloween, you might be in a crazy movie mood.

At some point during the weekend, Angela told me there’s a new sequel to The Shining coming out in theaters in November. The Shining is one of my very favorite movies of all time…so many great scenes. Who can forget “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Or how about “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”? Plus, the twins, the red rum scene, the maze, the snowplow…so many great scenes. I most recently watched it with my friend, Jennifer, and our daughters, a few years ago when we were staying at Mohonk Mountain House, an historic hotel in a lovely, mountain resort setting in Upstate New York. Some claim Mohonk Mountain House is haunted, so that made our viewing of The Shining even more erie! Making it even scarier? About 3/4 of the way through the movie, we heard someone trying to open a door. I thought it was our balcony door, so I threw myself against the door to give everyone else time to get out into the hall. Yes, I was going to sacrifice myself to save the others! Go ahead…laugh. But seriously, I threw myself against that door so hard that my arms hurt the next day! Jennifer ran out the door into the hallway with the girls. Nope, she wasn’t worried about holding back the would-be villain like I was. Of course, it turned to be no deranged villain at all. We discovered it was the neighbors who had just checked in, checking the lock on the door connecting our rooms. For more info on Mohonk Mountain House, click here.

But in discussing The Shining and its sequel, Angela and I started talking about other “crazy” movies we love. ***Disclaimer: we call these movies crazy because the characters are extreme. We are, in no way, saying people who are mentally ill are “crazy.” There’s a difference between deranged movie character and a mentally ill person.*** Here are a few films we recommend:

  • Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, released in September of 1987. Angela and I were a little shocked when we looked up the release date…can it really have been that long?!?! We were both only 20 years old when it came out. Wow. The film centers around a brief weekend affair between Dan, a married man played by Douglas, and Alex, a woman (played by Close) who refuses to let the affair end. Yes, Alex becomes obsessed with Dan and inserts herself into his life in various ways, and when things don’t go the way she hopes, she boils his daughter’s pet bunny in their kitchen. If you’ve ever heard someone call someone a “bunny boiler,” well, they are referring to a scene in Fatal Attraction. My friend, Wendy, who passed away in 2018, loved that reference. You can see the film on Amazon Prime.
  • Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. Taking it way back again, Angela and I both thought of Single White Female, and we agreed it is worth mentioning. Based on a novel by John Lutz called SWF Seeks Same, it’s the story of Allie (Fonda), a young software designer who, after finding out her boyfriend has cheated on her, advertises for a roommate. Hedra, aka Hedy, (Jason Leigh) responds to the ad and moves in. Hedy becomes obsessed with details of Allie’s life and even becomes jealous when Allie reconciles with her boyfriend. In one memorable scene, Hedy is clearly trying to become Allie. Hedy, as it turns out, is not mentally stable, and as that becomes obvious, characters start dying. The film was released in 1992, but I still hear references to it on a regular basis. When a female becomes “obsessed” or overly interested in the life of another female, I’ve seen people look at each other and utter three words: single white female. I’ve even said it myself. Heck, I’ve felt like I had my own single white female following me around before. You can see the film on Amazon Prime. It’s a good one to watch with girlfriends.
  • The Gift, starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton, released in 2015. This is one my husband discovered, and I made Angela watch it. She loves a good, suspenseful movie, so it was right up her alley. First of all, there’s Jason Bateman…a great reason for any woman to watch a movie. This film is about a young married couple (Bateman and Hall) who run into an acquaintance from high school in a store, bringing the acquaintance, Gordo, back into their lives. The plot takes lots of twists and turns. The first time I saw the movie, I was surprised by some of the twists, and it left me a little shaken. It will make me question my own character judgment. You can see it on Amazon Prime. *There’s another movie called The Gift on Prime that was released in 2001, so make sure you get the right one. The other one might be good too, but I’m not familiar with it.
  • Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, released in 2014. This film centers around the disappearance of the young wife of Ben Affleck’s character. When it appears he might have been involved in her disappearance, Affleck’s character becomes the focus of the investigation. Again, lots of twists and turns, and I won’t spoil it by telling you which one is crazy, but believe me, there’s a lot of crazy…a whole lot of crazy. This movie was well-received by audiences and critics. It’s worth seeing. See it on Amazon Prime.

There are others…Diabolique, starring Sharon Stone…one of my favorite lines of all time was from this movie. Kathy Bates, as a detective, suggests to Sharon Stone’s character that she might have killed the man involved because he left her and went back to his wife. Her response? “Have you seen his wife? Honey, if I couldn’t get a man to leave her, I wouldn’t kill him; I’d kill myself.” A biting line, indeed. Misery, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, is another good one; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, is a classic; Sunset Blvd, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson; Natural Born Killers, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliet Lewis…and many more.

So go ahead, become the winter caretaker of a mountain hotel. Find a roommate who wants to take over your life. Marry someone you thought you knew. Run into an acquaintance from long ago. Better yet, have an affair and find a boiling bunny in your kitchen.

Or instead…just watch movies about it.

 

Watch Ol’ Bandit Run

Growing up in the seventies, I loved Burt Reynolds, so when I heard he had died last week, my heart broke a little. Even as a little girl, I knew a good-looking man with a good sense of humor when I saw one. He was one of those men about whom you could say, “Women wanted him, and men wanted to be him.”

Just last year, for my fiftieth birthday, some friends took me to see Smokey and the Bandit on the big screen, for its 40th anniversary release. It was originally released on my tenth birthday in 1977. I thought it was hilarious then, and I thought Burt Reynolds was the man. Seeing the movie at 50 is different than seeing it at 10. Most of the innuendoes went way over my head back then, but I picked up on them in 2017…making it even funnier. But one thing didn’t change…at 50, I still thought Burt was the man. And did I mention he was easy on the eyes? Sure, his pants were tight, but he was smokin’ hot. He was also actually smoking cigarettes in the movie. If Smokey and the Bandit were made today, he wouldn’t be smoking. We made the movie’s 40th anniversary an event. I printed t-shirts for me and my friends, and one friend smuggled in Dr. Peppers, since that’s the beverage of choice in at least one scene. We didn’t smoke, and we didn’t eat any Diablo sandwiches, but we had a great time laughing and swooning over Burt. If you’ve never seen it, you can watch it on Amazon Prime here.

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Who didn’t love seeing Burt Reynolds and Sally Field together? They were both attractive, and the chemistry was real. Sally was adorable in the films they made together, and Burt, well…he was smokin’ hot. Any time he winked at the camera, women swooned, and men laughed. The man had swagger. Even when I was 10 years old, I knew he was special.

Because the local movie theater was my babysitter as a child, I saw lots of Burt Reynolds movies with my brother, including W. W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Gator, and Smokey and the Bandit. Later, I watched more of his movies on cable…the movies that had been rated R when I was too young to see them. I saw Deliverance for the first time when I was in college, and it made a lasting impression. I also loved him as Wood Newton in the television show, Evening Shade. But looking over his filmography on imdb.com (see it here), I see there are lots of his movies I haven’t seen yet. I’ll need to find them on Amazon.

My parents were big fans of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and any time I got to stay up and watch it with them, it was a treat. They especially loved when Burt Reynolds was on; I think he was one of Johnny’s favorite guests too. Burt was an easy guest…he was self-deprecating, funny, and he had lots of good one-liners. Did I mention he was easy on the eyes?

Lots of my family loved him, because he went to Florida State University. Several family members went to college there, so they always felt Burt was one of their own. He played football at FSU, but an injury in his sophomore year put a halt to his football career. He was probably devastated at the time, but I’m thankful. If he had been a professional football player, I likely would never have known of him. His football career likely would have fizzled out before I was born, and he never would have graced the big screen.

By all accounts, except maybe Loni Anderson’s, Burt was a great guy. My friend, Linda, worked for Burt at his dinner theater in Florida, and she has always told me what a great person he was…kind and caring. She wrote a tribute to him on her facebook page; it’s a glimpse into who Burt really was. To see it, click here.

I’m thinking this weekend, while Hurricane Florence is blowing through (we hope we are just on the outer bands of the storm), I’ll have to watch Smokey and the Bandit again, just to see Burt in his prime. Maybe I’ll watch the only movie for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Boogie Nights. It’s from later in his career, and I’ve never seen it. And I want to see The Last Movie Star, his last movie. About it, imdb.com says, “An aging former movie star is forced to face the reality that his glory days are behind him. On its surface, the film is a tale about faded fame. At its core, it’s a universal story about growing old.” I will definitely watch that on Amazon, which you can do by clicking here.

Burt Reynolds was like the Energizer bunny…he kept going and going…till last week. There aren’t many stars who stick out in my mind as lifelong favorites, but Burt does.

I was happy to see the FSU football team memorialize him in their game last week with helmet decals featuring “BAN ONE” and his signature, a nod to Burt and the license plate on the Trans Am he drove in Smokey and the Bandit.

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Watch ol’ Bandit run.

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The Bad News Bears Were Our Babysitters

Earlier this week, someone posted a video clip on Facebook. It was a clip from The Bad News Bears, a movie that was released in 1976. And oh, how that one short clip took me back in time. Not familiar with the movie? You can see the trailer here.

When I was a little girl between the ages of seven and ten, the movie theater was my babysitter. Many Saturday nights, our parents would drop off me and my younger brother at the local movie theater. Sometimes it was even a double feature. The local theater was a Mom and Pop operation with one screen. No megaplex. Just one screen, and they showed first run movies, usually a different one every week. The only one I remember showing for two weeks was Jaws in 1975, and yes, I was eight, and my brother was six when we saw it.

Our parents never did any “pre-screening” of any of the movies. As long as it wasn’t rated R, we went, and we loved Saturday nights at the movies!

In 1975, our favorite movie was Jaws, and our favorite in 1977 was Smokey and the Bandit, which was released on my tenth birthday…both rated PG, and both inappropriate by today’s standards. I saw Smokey and the Bandit again last year, and there is no way that movie could even be made today.

Between those great movies, there was The Bad News Bears, released in 1976. It was rated PG, and every kid wanted to see it. IMDb.com sums it up saying, “An aging, down-on-his-luck ex-minor leaguer coaches a team of misfits in an ultra-competitive California little league.” It starred Walter Matthau as the coach and Tatum O’Neal as Amanda, an 11-year old girl with mad pitching skills. The movie’s language is bad; it’s completely and utterly politically incorrect, and the coach is a drunk, but the team of misfits pulls together. If it were released today, lots of parents would freak out at the political incorrectness, language and mature content. Heck, there might even be an uproar, but it was a great movie from my childhood. I don’t remember anybody’s parents making a big deal about it. Back then, there wasn’t a PG-13 rating, so everything that wasn’t G or R fell into the middle category, PG. This movie would have been a PG-13 by today’s standards. We loved The Bad News Bears.

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Yet somehow, The Bad News Bears stands the test of time. There are lots of movies that just aren’t as good 40 years after they’re made, but this one is just as funny and heartwarming to me now as it was in 1976, because despite the political incorrectness, it’s a story of people coming together. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen it over the years. I purchased the DVD a couple years ago and watched it with my daughter. Sure the language was inappropriate, but the rest of it…the beer cans, drunk Buttermaker (Walter Matthau’s coach character), the drinking/smoking/motorcycle riding guy named Kelly Leak who would become a part of the team…well, my daughter was as surprised as I was when I watched it in 1976, but she liked the movie. And Tatum O’Neal was so darn cute. The movie stands the test of time, though, because it wasn’t a glossed-over, Leave It To Beaver version of childhood. Somebody, somewhere was actually living that childhood.

While lots of people would think The Bad News Bears is a terrible movie for kids now, people didn’t worry so much about stuff like that in 1976. Heck, we could ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, as long as we were home when the streetlights came on. My parents were buying themselves some date time by dropping us at the movies, but we were also getting an education. The Bad News Bears is set in Southern California, a place I’d never visited at the time. It was about a little league baseball team of misfits that was sponsored by none other than Chico’s Bail Bonds. While those of us who lived in South Alabama could relate to a baseball league, I didn’t know anyone like Amanda (Tatum O’Neal’s character), who sat on the side of the road selling maps to stars’ homes. That seemed fun and exciting to me. Add in the fact that she was a female, 11-yr-old, pitching dynamo, and I thought she was awesome. She was still feminine, yet that team of boys needed her. There was a lesson of “girls can do anything boys can do” in there, and there was a big message about teamwork and friendship.

When I was a kid, we all talked about the characters and even had favorites. If I said something about Tanner from The Bad News Bears to someone my age today, most people would immediately know who that is. Say the name Buttermaker today, and everybody my age knows who that is. I just tested that on my brother. I texted him and asked, “If I say the name Buttermaker, do you know who that is?” He immediately texted back, “Bad News Bears.” And any time one of us hears Bizet’s Carmen Overture, we think of The Bad News Bears, because an adaptation of it was used as the theme song.

So, while lots of parents would never watch The Bad News Bears with their children, I allowed my child to watch it, inappropriate or not. Truthfully, I had forgotten how terrible the language was, but we watched it anyway. Language aside, maybe she saw a glimpse of life outside her bubble. Sure, some of the characters were over the top, but the overall theme and message in the movie was a good one. I mean, really…who can forget the scene near the end of the movie where Tanner tells the Yankees, who have just defeated the Bears in the championship, what they can do with their apology and their trophy? And little, mousy Lupus tells them, “And another thing! Just wait till next year!”…as he pours a beer over his teammate’s head.

The Bad News Bears was well-received by audiences and critics when it was released, even winning a Writer’s Guild of America Award.

I never dropped our daughter at the theater when she was younger than 12. Times have changed since the 70s. Kids aren’t as free-ranging as they used to be. Now that she’s a teenager, she meets friends at movies occasionally. They check movie times on their phones and purchase their tickets in advance online. At some theaters, they reserve their seats in advance. I wish we could have done that in the 1970s. And I wish we’d had those big, reclining seats too.

Back then, we had to call a pre-recorded message line (from our landline phones!) to hear the title and movie times. It was along the lines of, “Thank you for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema. Today is June 1st. Our movie this week is Jaws. Showtimes are 4:00, 7:00 and 9:30. Admission is $1 for children under 12 and $2 for adults. Thank you again for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema.” Here’s how often we called that theater line…I still remember the telephone number…more than 40 years later. And the floors were sticky. Everyone drank sodas back then, and there were no cupholders at the seats, so when they spilled, the soda would run down the sloped floor of the theater, making a long, sticky, soda line. Y’all remember…

So, cheers to The Bad News Bears and all those great 70s movies that could never be made in 2018. They were great babysitters, and they were educators too. They don’t make ’em like they used to. We learned a lot about life from those “inappropriate” movies, and we haven’t become ax murderers…shocking, I know.

Wish my little brother and I could share a beer with Buttermaker.

***To see a clip of one of the best scenes from the movie, click here.***

***Want to see some of the oldies but goodies mentioned in this blog? Amazon Prime has lots of them! Go to Amazon here and in the search box, enter the name of the movie you’d like to see.***