I am not old. I know this because my dad was old and I used to buy him old stuff for his birthday. Things like hot air popcorn poppers, Red Foley audio cassettes and beaded seat covers for his truck. None of those things interest me now, so, ergo, I am not old.
The other day, I’m chatting with one of my twenty-something co-workers. He’s talking about some funny situation and I reply, “That sounds like something on Happy Days.”
Nothing. No reaction.
“You know . . . Happy Days. The TV show? The Fonz?”
Genuinely puzzled, I repeat in a cheerleader-like tone, “C’mon, you know . . . Fonzie! You know who Fonzie is, right?!”
He manages a polite smile but his eyebrows are knitted in confusion.
Beating a dead horse to death, I ask, “You must have seen it on TV Land, right?” He musters one of those expressions where the lips smile but the eyes don’t. He says he never really watched television very much, as his mind looked for a way to tunnel through the floor.
When I realize he’s not kidding, my peppy tone is replaced with absolute shock. “You’ve never heard of Happy Days?” I’m secretly hoping that somehow he will respond “Oh, HAPPY Days! I thought you were saying Schlappy Phase! Oh, sure. I remember Happy Days! I used to watch THAT!”
In this alternate universe, we’d exchange a hearty laugh and get on with our lives. But unfortunately, we’re in my hellish reality.
Suddenly, it dawns on me that I have one recourse left. I must do the voice. The Fonzie voice. The “Aaaayyyy!”
I don‘t want to do the voice. There must be another way, there has to be. In the meantime, I fruitlessly introduce the show’s characters including Richie, Ralf and Potsy (I skip Fonzie’s friend Carmine “The Big Ragu”, Milwaukee ‘s boxing champ / dancer who would enter a street fight singing, “Or will I go from rags to riches?” because there’s no sense stirring up already muddy waters.)
Still no luck. And now there’s no other way. If anything will jog a memory of a show he’s never seen, it’s the Fonzie voice. I make a deal with myself to do the voice with one stipulation: I will NOT do the thumbs. Not ever.
Fast forward 30 seconds where I’m waving both thumbs in the air like a lunatic, groaning “Aaaayyy!!!!”
Actually, I think I substituted “Heeeyyy!!” because I’m not really sure anymore what the hell that stupid catch phrase sounded like.
Now he’s getting annoyed with me because he thinks I’m making too much of a big deal about this and making him feel dumb. But that’s not it at all. I’m just realizing that if he doesn’t remember watching Fonzie’s amazing jukebox powers or when he jumped 14 garbage cans on his motorcycle, then that means . . . I’m old.
Finally, he asks, “When was it on?” I say, “Mid-70s.” He replies, “Oh, I was born in 1985.”
You know that scene in Hitchcock’s Vertigo where the guy freefalls in front of that swirling, spiral graphic? Yeah, well, same thing.
As the night went on, my co-worker and I smoothed things over with more topical conversations. But, every once in awhile, I’d throw in a casual “Welcome Back, Kotter?”
(pause) “Welcome back . . . WHAT?”
Nevermind. Boy, my knees hurt and my elbows feel dry.
All that explains why, tonight, I’m surfing Hulu for nice comforting episodes from the wacky and far out world of 1970’s television. This is what old people do.
I‘ve revisited some Sanford and Son shows. Mad love for Fred, that crochety old man who ran a junk yard in Los Angeles and had lots of fake heart attacks. Watched some Chico and the Man’s too with Jack Albertson playing a crochety old man who runs a auto garage in a rundown L.A. barrio. Hmmm. I’m seeing a common thread here. Anyway, when I was young, I identified more with Lamont and Chico. Now I find myself identifying with those crochety old bastards. Listening to Jose Feliciano’s theme song, it made me a little sad to remember that Freddie Prinze, as Chico, committed suicide only two years into the show.
I resist the urge to get nostalgic and watch any Happy Days at Arnold’s Drive In. Maybe some Partridge Family or Good Times or WKRP in Cincinnati? Nope. Nor am I in the mood for What’s Happening, The Jeffersons, MASH, Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch chasing bad guys in their muscle car, or BJ and the Bear chasing down bad guys in their 18 wheeler.
Maybe I can find out who gets off the plane on Fantasy Island or which over-the-hill stars of yesteryear turns up to rub uglies on the Love Boat.
Suddenly, I see episodes of The New Original Wonder Woman and click on a link that takes me to The WB where I find myself watching the pilot episode. I issue a lascivious grin and diabolically tap my fingers together in memory of how Lynda Carter and her primo T&A made me feel in 1976.
The show starts with Nazi commander Col. Von Blasko meeting with a Nazi pilot and another short, nervous Nazi named Nicholas who’s secretly a double agent. Von Blasko would know Nicholas is a spy if he’d only notice how he constantly sweats and acts jumpy every time spies are mentioned. If I were a Nazi commandant in 1942, I’d have a surefire way to tell if there were a spy in my midst. I’d invite all my most trusted associates over for cigars and then propose a toast. When they all take a drink, I’d quickly shout “SPY!” and see if anyone sprays Jägermeister out of their mouth.
Von Blasko says the Allies have been working on some special bomb in Brooklyn . If completed, the Allies will be able to pinpoint targets from an altitude beyond the range of Nazi anti-aircraft guns. So Von Blasko has come up with a plan. A single Nazi super plane will blow up the bomb site and, at that precise moment, a spy will steal the hidden blueprints so the Nazis can build their own special bombs.
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., General Blankenship, Major Steve Trevor, and Steve’s saucy secretary, Marcia, receive information from Nicholas about the Nazi super plane. Normally, the war department might send a squadron of planes to intercept, but Blankenship runs things a little differently. Anyone who remembers watching this show will be convinced that every course of action taken by the U.S. during WWII was handled by Major Steve Trevor alone. And that’s the way it should be. Always send your most important man on important missions! After all, who better to fall into enemy hands: some lowly staff sergeant who’s only privy to which mess hall has better pie, or a senior officer who can brag about how well the Manhattan Project’s coming along? It’s a no-brainer.
At an airbase outside Washington D.C. , Steve prepares for his flight by gently tossing a white scarf around his neck and ordering the General to warm up his plane. Hours later, Steve flies over the Atlantic until he spots his enemy. Here we get a glimpse of a Nazi cockpit. On the instrument panel is a large swaztika. This is very important because sometimes while performing daredevil maneuvers in a dogfight, a pilot can become so disoriented he will forget which side he’s on.
One way to prevent disorientation is to get plenty of fresh air. Which is probably why both of their canopies have no glass in them. But I’m also thinking this means the dogfight can also end if one of the pilots gets hit in the face by an albatross.
The dogfight ends in the usual way, with both planes flying headlong at each other playing “chicken” and simultaneously exploding. So I guess this means that Steve’s dead.
Wait a minute. Both pilots jettison their planes and parachute right next to each other. Actually, they’re only a few feet apart and yet their parachutes don’t tangle. As they descend, both pilots go for their guns. Unfortunately, Steve’s gun gets stuck and the Nazi shoots Steve point blank in the chest. Twice. Wow. I guess Steve’s dead.
Wait a minute. Both pilots fall into shark-infested waters! Wow. I guess Steve’s REALLY had it this time.
Wait a minute. Even though Steve must be bleeding profusely, the sharks are only interested in eating the Nazi. They must be on our side. Well, except for that one Swiss shark that’s swimming away.
In the next scene, Steve washes ashore on Paradise Island, home of the Amazon women. He is discovered by the princess (Lynda Carter) and her buxom friend, who are, of course, both running through the jungle wearing baby doll camasols.
The princess, using her vast Amazon strength, lifts Steve and carries him, running back to their island city. Poor Steve is so injured, he appears to be nothing more than a lifeless dummy in her arms, his rubbery legs flopping as she runs.
The news gets back to Germany that the Nazi pilot has disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle. Von Blasko, believing the failed mission was due to espionage, decides that he himself will fly the next mission. I’m also thinking that maybe he should find out who the spy is first so that doesn’t happen again.
No? OK then.
The princess’s mother, the queen, decides that when Steve has recovered from his injuries (being shot twice in the chest can really wipe you out) one of the Amazon women will take him back to the United States. Because all the ladies will want that task, the queen has decided to hold an Olympic-style athletic competition and the winner gets to escort Steve stateside. The games will include events such as the shot put, archery, and who can throw the largest paper maché boulder, all while wearing lingerie.
Also, each Amazon contestant must wear a Lone Ranger-style black mask which the queen says is “tradition.” This makes the javelin toss even more challenging, especially for anyone standing near the target. But sometimes tradition is fraught with a little danger, right. When I was a kid, it was my job to pull the Lawn Darts out of the ground whenever my mom invited her friends over for Margaritas.
The contest eventually winds down to a tie between two Amazons: a tall redhead and another who looks similar to the princess wearing a blond wig. Hmmm, who could that be? To determine the winner, each must pass the final test in an event called Bullets and Bracelets.
The redhead is the first to fire the gun. Wait, what? I thought this was an island of peace and harmony. Who‘s manufacturing six-shooters on Paradise Island?
After the princess-in-disguise easily deflects the bullets, it’s her turn to shoot. Amazon red does a decent job deflecting the bullets but the last one grazes her arm. The princess is declared the winner and is awarded the Belt of Strength, which enables the wearer to retain their Amazon powers away from Paradise Island.
Prizes in hand, the princess removes the mask, revealing her true identity to her mother. The queen, shocked, screams, “I don’t care HOW GOOD you done, there ain’t NO WAY you’re leavin’ here with no man! Now GET TO YOUR ROOM and get that grin off that face ‘fore I SMACK it off!” Oops, my mistake, that’s just bleed-over from the reality show playing on the television in the other room.
Later, in private chambers, the princess stands in front of a mirror wearing her Wonder Woman costume. Her mother says, “I designed it myself.” I think we can all agree she did a bang-up job. It highlights her daughter’s gigantic boobs perfectly. The only thing I have a problem with is that the Belt of Strength she wears is fastened in the back with velcro. If you’re thinking this could become a problem during a fight, I’m way ahead of you. Everybody knows velcro picks up lint. And that stuff is impossible to get out.
Mom also mentions that the invisible plane is fueled and ready. The plane isn’t really invisible, it’s more like transparent glass. Later, as she flies over Paradise Island , the sun’s rays are magnified through the plane and she accidentally incinerates all her Amazon sisters like ants.
Next, we see Wonder Woman flying over D.C. while Steve lays wounded next to her. The Amazon nurses didn’t wash the blood off Steve’s face but they did a magnificent job styling his hair. Momentarily, he regains consciousness. I know what I would do if I woke up and appeared to be several thousand feet in the air. I‘d freak out. Especially if the last thing I remembered was falling from the sky. But Steve is made of cooler stuff, gazing up at Wonder Woman and hitting her with “I must’ve died and gone to heaven.”
We don’t know where she parks her invisible plane, but Wonder Woman runs to the armed forces hospital cradling Steve in her arms, wrapped in a pink sheet. I imagine he’s going to take quite the ribbing for this from his fellow officers.
Then Wonder Woman decides to take a stroll past a bank when a pair of robbers rush out, guns blazing. She deflects the bullets. Clearly the whole Bullets and Bracelets thing turned out to be the most useful of Amazon events, far surpassing chariot racing. Wonder Woman then throws the robbers into a pile of empty cardboard boxes. However, when the police ask her to write a statement, she refuses saying, “THEY steal money and I have to fill out forms? What a country this is.” She walks away. Apparently, there’s no way in hell she’s filling out any forms, yet she’s completely unconcerned if someone tries to bust a cap in her spectacular booty.
Watching her foil the robbers is a theater agent who offers her a job. Wonder Woman realizes she needs money to live amongst the rest of us, so she strikes a deal to perform her Bullets and Bracelets on stage. After a successful show, the agent makes the mistake of short-changing her. When her temper flares, he runs away. In his defense, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a coward. After all, it is war time. Perhaps he was simply rationing his manhood.
Meanwhile in Berlin, Von Blasko awaits the completion of the Nazi’s state-of-the-art fighter plane, the XV-13. Von Blasko tells Nicholas, “I will bomb the navy yard and the U-boat will transport our spy with the stolen plans back to Germany . Inform Agent M.” These Nazis are masters of espionage! If General Blankenship ever finds out there’s an Agent M lurking around his intelligence office, he’d say, “Who could be Agent M? Hmmm. Let’s see. Who works here? There’s only three of us. There’s Steve Trevor, then there’s Marcia, then there’s myself. M? Myself? Good Lord, I’m the spy! Marcia, come in here and place me under citizen’s arrest!”
Next, we see Von Blasko flying the Nazi’s newest and most powerful plane, the XV-13. Surely, he’s somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Only we see he’s flying over the giant Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro! I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around that. It’s not exactly the most direct route. Apparently, Von Blasko wants to get a little sightseeing in first.
Back in Washington, General Blankenship telephones Steve in his hospital room. Since our spies confirm that the Nazis are sending their best pilot, Von Blasko (he’ll get there eventually), Steve correctly assumes their mission isn’t to simply attack the U.S., but rather, the secret bomb site nearby.
Now, when I say Blankenship and Trevor make all the major decisions, I don’t mean the war department. I mean THESE TWO GUYS make ALL the decisions on behalf of the United States government. Not the President, not the Secretary of Defense, not congress. Just these two. So Steve decides that instead of sending a squadron of P-38s, he alone will pilot an experimental plane and intercept Von Blasko.
In summation: The Nazi’s best pilot versus a guy who just yesterday had a sucking chest wound.
Steve discharges himself from the hospital and tells Marcia that he’s taking a cab to the experimental plane on the old Georgetown Road . Of course, Marcia informs her Nazi cronies. Later, Steve’s cab is forced off the road and he’s over-powered by three guys, one of them being the talent agent. And while none of these guys look like they could take Steve in a fair fight, he ends up knocking himself out on a rock.
Steve is tied up and taken to Marcia’s apartment where the fresh bruises on his face tell us he’s just received further beatings while unconscious. Hey, you know what, Nazis? Major Steve Trevor will outsmart you all! He’s forgotten more about withstanding these interrogations than you’ll EVER know!
Marcia injects him with truth serum and he sings like a canary.
Okay, I’m a little disappointed with ol’ Stevo.
It turns out the plans to the bomb site are locked in a wall safe in Steve’s office. Of course they are. Where else would they be. It’s almost like the President gave Steve Trevor the entire war department just so he could have something to do. Steve also gives Marcia the combination to the wall safe, but when Marcia tries to open it in Steve’s office, Wonder Woman walks in and exclaims “I knew it was you all the time!”
Don’t you wish you had hunches that accurate? If it were me, even if I did have a hunch Marcia would someday try to break into Steve’s safe, how long would I have to wait there? Let’s say I show up at Steve’s safe around 6 p.m. A half hour goes by. Then a couple of hours. Now I’m hungry. I didn’t pack anything for this stakeout. So I find a vending machine and get a candy bar. Now it’s 11 p.m. When is Marcia gonna get here? Sitting in this office chair is killing my back. I can’t believe how cold it gets in here at night. I didn’t even bring a blanket. I’m soooooo bored. Maybe Marcia isn’t even planning to rob the safe tonight. Maybe she’s coming tomorrow night. In fact, she’s probably relaxing in front of a giant radio listening to Amos n’ Andy and enjoying a delicious can of spam! And I’m sitting here in the dark and freezing my ass off like an idiot!
Marcia warns Wonder Woman that she’s Nuremburg’s Judo champ. I thought the notion of a Nazi performing Judo sounded made up until I Googled it. It turns out, efforts were made to train the Hitler Youth in Judo so that Germany could compete in the event at the 1940 summer Olympics in Tokyo. But because of World War II , Japan was stripped of its host status and the Olympics were cancelled until after the war. Ha! Take that Nazis!
Marcia tries different tactics to get the best of Wonder Woman, such as trying to swing a large chandelier into her. Seriously, has that move ever worked in a fight? Wow, what happened to you, Glen? Well, I was sitting in this bar checkin’ out a babe. I hear someone behind me yell “Are you checkin’ out my old lady?!” Next thing I know, some dickhead cold cocks me with a freakin’ chandelier! They said I was out for five minutes. I think I cracked a rib.
Wonder Woman tells Marcia, “They didn’t teach you to fight fair.” Wonder Woman is all about fighting fair. Using her special Amazon strength, she punches Marcia across the room through a set of glass double doors.
She ensnares Marcia with her Golden Lasso which compels her to reveal the Nazi plan. At precisely midnight, Steve will be killed and the bomb site will be destroyed. Wonder Woman buys Steve some time by using her completely unexplained powers of vocal mimicry to imitate Marcia. She phones the henchmen saying the plan is running one hour late. She then leaves Marcia tied up with the Golden Lasso (Are you sure you’re not going to need that later? Shouldn’t you just bend something made of steel around her?)
Hours later, still flying around in his plane, Von Blasko receives a radio message from the thugs saying the plan is being pushed back by one hour. “Nein!” yells Von Blosko, “Anyone who delays the mission will die!” Priceless! That is SO Von Blasko. In fairness though, you can understand why he’s a little impatient. The distance between Rio and New York is about 5000 miles. Von Blasko has probably been urinating in his pewter stein for the last 14 hours.
Suddenly, Wonder Woman maneuvers her super cool invisible plane over Von Blosko’s. Through some magic power, the invisible plane attracts the XV-13 upward like a magnet, pinning it to hers. The XV-13 now essentially “captured,” Wonder Woman somehow drops down into Von Blosko’s back seat. Mind you, there’s no hatch or anything, she simply drops inside the plane. The Invisible Plane jostles the XV-13 violently. Von Blasko does a quick check to make sure everything’s still functional: his canopy’s undamaged, his Luger is still in its holster and when he turns and sees Wonder Woman for the first time, his weinerschnitzel becomes locked in its upright position.
After punching Von Blasko unconscious, she uses the radio to contact the U-boat below. This time she imitates Von Blosko’s voice and commands the U-boat to surface and asks for its latitude and longitude coordinates.
It’s important to note that there are two sides of Wonder Woman. There’s the side that’s peaceful, having been raised on Paradise Island. This is the side she would use to ask the U-boat to surrender. But there’s also a side of her that’s an Amazon warrior. This is the side she uses to plunge the XV-13 into a screaming nosedive, destroying the U-boat and everyone inside.
Later, in Washington , Wonder Woman hands Von Blosko over to the authorities. By the looks of him, it’s unclear which part of his long plane ride did him in, Wonder Woman’s punch or the blood clots in his legs.
But the police make the mistake of telling her she can’t just drop off a Nazi spy without filling out forms. C’mon, officers, she’s said it before. Wonder Woman will gladly endanger her life by crashing fighter planes into U-boats but she emphatically refuses to do paperwork. It’s the only thing she won’t do. Can’t you cut a sister some slack? Do you guys have to be so rigid around Wonder Woman? Do you have to be so stiff?
Heh, heh. I’m making the diabolical finger tapping again. Wonder Woman is making me feel surprisingly young and may have rescued my teenage boyhood.
Thank you, Wonder Woman!
Anyway, that leaves Wonder Woman with just one job left, to save “war hero” Steve Trevor. Soon, she breaks down the door of Marcia’s apartment and defeats Trevor’s Nazi captors. She unties him and explains how everything’s wrapped up and that his secretary, Marcia, was a Nazi spy. Hey, Wonder Woman, here’s a thought. Instead of making a career out of saving Steve‘s lame ass every episode, how about getting your star-spangled badonkadonk over to Germany and just capturing Hitler!
Back at the war department, Steve insists the next secretary he hires will look “ordinary.” Perhaps due to his recent beatings, he has concluded that a beautiful woman = Nazi spy. Of course, he shouldn’t be concerned with hiring secretaries because that’s what human resources is for. After all, high-ranking officers like Major Trevor don’t hire secretaries.
Enter: General Blankenship who says, and I quote: “Steve, I’ve personally interviewed 15 secretaries and I think I’ve found the one for you!” You have to admire this multi-tasking General. In fact, many’s the time our fightin’ boys overseas were knee-deep in blood and guts and needed a new strategy, and the General was back in the states holding a steno pad asking young hotties, “So, where do you see yourself five years from now?”
Following the General’s interviews, Diana Prince was hired on the spot. I’m really impressed with the efficiency of General Blankenship’s hiring process. It’s amazing how quickly you can fill a job opening if you don’t ask for identification or conduct a background investigation.
If you watch further episodes, you’ll notice the great thing about working for Blankenship is if you ever have a problem, he insists you take time off. In several episodes, if a worker looks troubled or tired, heck, even if they just look constipated, the General will insist, “Why don’t you take a few days off?”
Seriously, why couldn’t I ever have a boss like this?
The only wrinkle with giving Steve Trevor time off is now the war department can’t carry out any military plans until he gets back.
Blankenship (on phone): “Good morning, Mr. President! What’s that? You say the Nazis are attacking New York City? I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I gave Major Trevor 3 days off. He was feeling guilty about speaking harshly to his beagle after she soiled the dining room carpet. He was pretty broken up about it. (pause) Yes, Mr. President, I’m well aware of the gravity of the situation. In fact, from what Steve tells me, his beagle hasn’t stopped trembling.
So here we are at the end of the pilot episode. The General introduces Steve to his new secretary, Wonder Woman’s alter ego Diana Prince. Steve’s reaction to her physical appearance is priceless. He tries his best to hide it, but it’s a look of disgust toward Diana’s glasses and pinned-up hair. And although Diana’s physical attributes include an hourglass figure, dazzling smile, full lips, sparkling blue eyes, swan-like neck, and enormous breasts, none of these tip off Steve that this could, in fact, be a total babe.
But all’s well that ends well for Wonder Woman, because the Amazon warrior, who will gladly do whatever it takes to battle Nazis except fill out forms, gets herself a job.
In an office.
You know what, I‘m scribbling a movie on my note pad. Maybe tomorrow night, I‘ll try watching Lynda Carter‘s film debut in Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw on Netflix if its available. It was made about the same time she did this pilot episode of Wonder Woman and its good ’ol 70’s exploitation, southern style, at its finest. There’s boobs, guns, cars, trailer parks, drugs, and cussin’ a plenty.
She plays Bobbie Jo, a small town girl who works at a Drive-in diner and feeds her rebellion by jumping in the muscle car of an outlaw car thief. Actually, if I remember right, the dude just sort of sat in his car all stalker-like across from her house. They get chased by tabacky-chewing cops, and the next thing you know, they’re walking arm in arm across the desert, shootin’ rusty tin cans, and getting all comfy while Bobbie Joe serenades him on her guitar. All of which leads to some sweet 1970’s lovemaking by a campfire where Wonder Woman proceeds to flash us her bare Amazon boobage.
Strange, I don’t remember a single thing about the movie after that.