Thursday, December 15, 2011

WOTV commercials from 1991

There's some good ones. I'm still hunting for a good copy of the commercials for Fables and Fun Factory...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oil painting in Lake Michigan Dr. Mr. Burger

Remember this.... ?

Randomly saw this on a truck while walking around.  I did continue to listen to WLAV's "underground radio" even after they moved it over to AM. Which I guess would have probably been the most recent time I've listened to AM radio. 1996?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monroe Ave. decked out for Xmas, Late December 1964

Beautiful. Random observations... Division was a one-way. Monroe Ave was a street before they converted it to a walkway and then back to a street. Those giant, red glowing signs on top of buildings! The Pantiland Hotel down at the end, which the Amway Grand Plaza would later be added onto. There's Herpolsheimer's, later to be City Centre/Mackie's World/Police station.

The Great Daryl Nathan Christmas jam!

Trying to think of some good holiday stuff to drop in here and this clip first came to mind!
This might require a bit of explanation for for folks unfamiliar with the GR phenomenon known as The Great Daryl Nathan.
I was one of the original production crew behind "The Great Daryl Nathan Entertainment Show" that mystified viewers of GRTV public access back in the mid 90s. If you were around GR back then, you very likely already know what I am talking about. The guy created quite a buzz while he was on. I'd go so far as to say he was the closest thing GRTV had to a celebrity.
I really NEED to do a dedicated entry about Mr. Nathan when I get back around to it, but this will have to do for now.
This particular clip was one of two Christmas Specials I produced and it's a little different than most of Daryl's shows.
At this point, it seemed like Daryl was ready to part ways with GRTV and wasn't fully into it. His songs were mostly without lyrics and he didn't dress up with his signature snazzy suit and long, flowing hair.
I recruited a few friends to come in and be "dancers" and they really delivered!
Also, you may notice an abundance of Josta cola! A decked out Josta truck dropped off a pile of the stuff to GRTV that afternoon and we were all buzzing on Josta for a couple months!
A real grass-roots effort, this show. Some of the holiday decorations on the set a friend of mine had apparently "borrowed" from a local Taco Bell earlier that day.

Now get ready for some holiday spirit, GR mid-90s style....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interestingly-named places to buy fish in Grand Rapids!

I always take notice of this little place on Leonard and Plainfield both because of its appearance and its name.
The Flying Bridge Fish Market seems really retro-looking to me with all the wood and groovy signage...

So... "Flying Bridge?"

At first, I thought the name was just weird and random but the oracle of wikipedia says:
"A flying bridge is a (usually open) area on top of, or at the side of, a ship's pilothouse, or closed bridge, that serves as an operating station for the ship's officers in good weather or when maneuvering in port, where good views along the ship sides are important. It is also a raised, usually second story cockpit on a smaller boat, such as a sport-fisher."

Anyway, it looks cute and old and one day I will check it out.

Then there's this place a little ways down Plainfield that I'd totally overlook by its appearance...

But then you notice the unfortunate name...  "Sanitary Seafood."

I'd really like to try some fried fish at the Flying Bridge, word is it's pretty awesome!

I'm also really curious to find out if the seafood at Sanitary Seafood is truly sanitary.

I don't know, that's kind of a bold claim, guys! :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mr. Fabulous Burger via The Filling Station

So I woke up this morning with the old Mr. Fables commercial song playing in my head. If you grew up in GR I bet you'll remember "People like Mr. Fables! People Like yooooou!"  This led me to getting into some Mr. Fables facebook reminiscing with some people, which in turn led me to craving a Mr. Fabulous burger!!
Well the last Fables went out of business in the late 90s-- but I remembered hearing people say there was a place out on Alpine that still makes "authentic" Mr. Fabulous burgers.
After 3 months of being on a pretty disciplined (and boring) diet, I decided today was a good day to eat some totally unhealthy food and find out about this place called "The Filling Station."

So the Filling Station is a ways down North Alpine, out in Comstock Park.  The building looks a lot like an old Fables building but it is actually a former Red Hot Inn.
The interior is covered in license plates and vintage signage, it has the same Fables cafeteria-style layout and yes, lots of old people.

I ordered a Mr. Fabulous and onion rings. There's a little bit of a wait until they call your number but not annoyingly long. 
I'm not a professional reviewer of food so I'm not really going to try and get too detailed here but was it f-ing awesome? Yes!  Especially the onion rings, I mean look at that....

I am not ashamed to sit in a restaurant alone, photographing my food, but perhaps I should be.
The Mr. Fab olive burger was pretty great too. I'd say the 2 beef patties seemed more substantial than at the other closest-place-to-Fables, Mr. Burger.
Was it an "authentic" Mr. Fables meal? Well... maybe.  The last time I'd have eaten at Fables might've been 15 years ago. That, and the way nostalgia tends to enhance things, I couldn't really say how it measures up to the real thing anymore. 
It was a dang good burger and onion rings though and a fun place to eat and people-watch.  You should totally go.

Does anyone know if there was supposed to be something "special" about the Fables sauce or was it just room-temperature mayo?

Also, if you know a link to the old Fables tv commercial, lay it on me bro!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Famous people on GRTV in the late 80s

Gillian Anderson performing some "spoken word" in 1986, complete with the awesome analogue video effects. My old pal Toxic Scott (RIP) made a little $$$ selling this tape to FOX back in the day...


The same year, before the band TOOL made it big, Maynard Keenan was a GR resident and had a local band called "Children Of The Anachronistic Dynasty" (CAD).  Here they are in the GRTV studio...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Big Melons?"

I came across this large bumper sticker stuck on a street light on Leonard and it jogged a long forgotten memory.
I don't remember much about the place except that it existed during the late 90s on this street... I want to say it was in the space where One Man's Junk is right now. Apparently it was a coffee bar that was sort of a teen hangout, like the West Side equivalent of "Music Expresso" or something. "Later mom and dad, I'm going to go hang out at Big Melons!"
I had never felt like going in the place myself but with a name like that, it always got my attention if I'd go past.
Why was it called that? Just to make you look? I'm thinking the sign actually had illustrations of watermelons on it.  Did employees there have well-endowed breastesses? Maybe somebody can fill us in on the details. The world is waiting to know the secrets of Big Melons.
I also seem to remember hearing this place was run by the same dude who had run Club 911 before they closed. Did he happen to have large man boobs?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pepsi Dance Trax

People "of a certain age" in Grand Rapids might remember this show that aired Sunday mornings on channel 17 in the late 80s.
Dance Trax followed the format of many other "dance club" shows that were popular at the time such as Club MTV, The Grind, Dance Party USA, etc. which I guess all were descendants of American Bandstand and Soul Train. Shots of teens dancing to the latest hits, occasionally with the video.
It was produced in the Club Eastbrook space (which is now Orbit Room) and hosted by KLQ on-air personality Danny Douglas.
The shows filled a 30 minute slot but I have edited this one down to 10 minutes of giant bangs, permed mullets, Polo and Bugle Boy. Watch for the pair of girls with impressive Salt n' Peppa outfits!

Thanks to Wendee Bush for going to the trouble of searching out her ancient but amazingly well-preserved tape!! I'm making her a DVD of these episodes in exchange for letting me share them on here.

If you have any rare GR video gems, message me!

Special Bonus!  Check out this dance-off to Nena Cherry "Buffalo Stance." 

>>>>>>>>For a limited time, DVD available!

Friday, March 11, 2011

One thing about the internet. It really shows me how any good idea I've ever had, somebody else has already thought of and done it way better a long time ago.
Case in point, this awesome G.R. historic blog "F*** Yeah Grand Rapids"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mr. Fables sign found...

WYCE station manager Kevin Murphy spotted this Mr. Fables sign in the window of RHD Tire on Grandville Ave.
Thanks for sending the picture. Or as Kevin points out, "thanks to the person who is responsible for the sheet metal screw in my tire for my seeing the sign and taking the photo." 

Betamax Theatre Presents...

I'm well known around town for "being into weird old shit."
A while back somebody gifted me with a working Betamax VCR, I'm guessing from the late 70s. It is gigantic and covered with simulated wood grain but it's in excellent shape and works great.
Along with the deck they also gave me 3 shopping bags full of tapes. These tapes contain home-recorded TV broadcasts from the late 70s, early 80s from the G.R. area!
As I get the time, I'll be going through them, looking for interesting clips and posting them.

Here is a short promo clip from News 8's exciting new innovation, the News Van!
"Someday all stations will have one.... "

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Clock

The Clock sure did have a sweet vintage sign, with a working clock.  Did they reset it for daylight savings time?
Did somebody have to get up on a ladder to reset that thing or was it remotely controlled from inside?
I guess we will never know.
The Clock was a 24 hour greasy-spoon diner on Alpine Avenue.
It opened in 1974 as part of a chain headquartered in Southfield, Michigan and was one of three Clocks in the area. The franchise ended and the Alpine Clock continued on independently.
The place had diverse clientele including regulars, truckers and usually a good share of kids, being one of the few places youth could gather late at night.
The Clock had table-top juke boxes that for $0.25 would play Neil Diamond, Elvis, Journey or Madonna tunes. There was even some Barney The Dinosaur on there which some friends and I would sometimes play specifically to mess with people. :)
The plaza area behind it was steadily being transformed into national chains with The Clock being the last old-school holdout. 
Unfortunately, The Clock caught fire June 16, 2005 and was demolished in early 2006 to be replaced by a Q'doba. 
Nowadays, The Grand Coney on Michigan Ave. seems to fill the late night after bar greasy-spoon niche.

So this entry's pretty short, I don't have a wealth of info or memories to share about The Clock but please post some of your own. That's what this thing is for!

North Kent Mall

I used to go to North Kent almost exclusively to hang out at Aladdin's Castle, one of the last great old-school video game arcades. I'd usually ride the bus up there, listening to my "cassette walkman," most likely a cassingle of De La Soul or something.
Another thing I remember is for a while, NK was the home to the only of the old-style photo booths. Not the sort that are around today where you can be superimposed in front of backgrounds and such but the type where it fires off 4 takes and you get a strip of (black & white!) photos at the end. There was also a small movie theater to the side, "Movies at North Kent."

Aladdin's Castle was awesome. I never knew it was actually a chain. Apparently there are still a few alive today, scattered around the country.

Mostly dead interior, 1998.
North Kent opened in 1971, anchored by Montgomery Ward and Wurzberg's, with a Turnstyle on an outlot. Wurzberg's closed in 1974, and was replaced by Kmart. The Turnstyle building was used by Meijer for a while as a clearance center and offices, but now sits vacant. The mall went into a slow decline and by 2000 was nearly dead. The last remaining stores were Waldenbooks, JoAnn Fabrics, Bargain Books, Radio Shack, Zales Jewelery, and GNC. In 1999 there were displays posted about plans to renovate the mall, and add a third unnamed anchor, but those never came to pass. In October 2000, it was announced that the mall would be demolished for a Lowe's. Both anchors (Kmart and Wards) would remain. The mall closed in March 2001 and Wards closed a week later in bankrupcy. The Wards building has been divided into Dunhams, Dollar Tree, and Family Farm & Home.

The old Movies at North Kent sign, no longer there.
It seemed like NKM was a pretty bustling teen hang-out on the weekends during it's peak.
Do kids even do that these days? Just go and "hang out at the mall"?  The malls sure seemed to be social meccas in the 80s and 90s from what I remember. For area young'uns with no car, it was probably the place to go and meet boys/girls. I bet you were "cool" if you had a boy/girlfriend was from a different school. Ah, youth.

This is one of 2 statues that were inside. I have discovered both of the statues are now in a small park outside a Salvation Army office building on LaGrave St. Photo: Alaine Poelstra

Not much remains online of the old place. I did find one very odd newspaper article though (click to enlarge) ....

This guy regains sight in his blind eye by bumping into a pole while powerwalking in North Kent Mall.
Truly a Christmas miracle!
There is an "I Hung Out At North Kent Mall" facebook group with over 1,500 members!

Here are a couple shots of the interior from a 2-page ad the mall took out in a yearbook from Northview highscool, 1975, courtesy Larry Bennett with Photoshop cleanup by Randy Tate...

Here is another artifact kindly donated by Christopher Gielda, who was a manager at Record Town.
A North Kent Mall brochure featuring a map and a store directory!  See if it jogs your memory of the different stores that were there. Click on the pics for super-large versions that are readable...

Map brochure outside. Click to enlarge

Map brochure inside. See store listing below!  Click to enlarge
Store listing for the map!  Click to enlarge

Please feel free to share your own North Kent Mall memories in the comments below!
Thanks everyone who has posted. It's fun reading everyone's recollections...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Retro Podcast #2

I got some good feedback on my first outing so here's another kooky retro podcast.
Hope you guys enjoy it. Program listing below.

RDL podcast #2 by jefleppard

As before, the little arrow on the widget allows you to download the whole MP3 if you want a copy....

And case you missed it, Retro Podcast #1

Retro #2 info:

Theme, "Hunter"
70s music countdown clip
Giorgio Moroder "Battlestar Galactica" (disco version)
commercial clip, "Freedom Rock" *
Theme, "Kidd Video"
Video game music "Battle Squadron" **
Trailer, "Xanadu"
1981 Buck Rogers clip "Andromeda"
Johnny Harris - "Odyssey part 1) 1980 ***
Commercial, Bill Cosby "Jello Pudding Pops"
Mr. T "Treat Your Mother Right"
Commercial "Thundercats preview"
Theme "Street Hawk"
Theme "Thundaar The barbarian"
"Battle Theme" Flash Gordon soundtrack, Queen
Commercial, "The Clapper"
Theme "Darkplace"
1979 TV sign-off
Closing Theme, "Little House On The Prairie"

* During the 80s and early 90s, you couldn't seem to watch TV without seeing the "Freedom Rock" commercials. Some trivia, one of the "hippies" was played by WLAV radio DJ who went by Red Noise. Red passes away I believe from a heart attack in the mid-90s.

** A favorite game of mine on the Commodore Amiga computer from 1989. During it's all-too-brief existence, Amiga computers had superior sound and graphics to any other home computer or game platform. Commodore went bankrupt in 1994.

*** From an episode of the 80s Buck Rogers show that stands out in my memory. It featured a wacky futuristic band with instruments that involved waving hands over glowing crystals and the like. All these years later I found out the actual artist who performed the music for that episode is Johnny Harris.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bill Vits, "Fun City" and "Pop Up"

Here are some songs and videos from 80s Grand Rapids by Bill Vits. Bill is the lead percussionist from the G.R. Symphony and also the drummer for the rock/surf band The Concussions.
I can actually remember hearing "Pop Up" on WLAV back in the small town I lived in before moving to Grand Rapids in '86.

Pop Up!
Bill: "I did this video (and 45 rpm record) with my neighbor kids in 83. I heard them singing this jump rope song in my driveway and recorded it on my Walkman. Later I took them into a 24 track studio and recorded the tune and overdubbed all the percussion while using an Oberheim DX drum machine and JX-3P Roland synth for bass. The sound of the jump rope was made by flexing a small piece of sheet metal while hitting the floor with a plastic strap. It won 1st prize in the JVC video competition."

Fun City
Bill: "This great colorful video with music by Bill Vits and Fred Baker is a treat for the eyes. Enjoy!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Retro Podcast #1

Here's my first foray into podcasting. It clocks in at a pretty short 20 minutes but it's packed full of fun retro awesomeness. Not the kind of things I'd play at a dance night but more obscure music, movie and tv clips, etc. Have a listen and see what it does for you. If I get some good feedback, or any feedback at all really, I'll keep doing them.

P.S. On the right of the little player widget, the arrow let's you download the full MP3 if you want. Have fun! 
Track listing after the break, below. 

The Retro Podcast #1 by jefleppard

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Most Ghetto Party Store In Grand Rapids Contest 2011

Maybe this isn't the best place for this topic, in a "retro" blog, but maybe it is.
Ghetto-ass party stores have existed since the dawn of time, it's a known fact.

Anyway, there's some stiff competition for the title this year. Some big-name players. Let's take a look at the contenders...

Bere Store, Franklin & Jefferson
Spike n' Mikes, Fulton & Jefferson
Family Pantry, Stocking? Wessiiiide
Lucky's, Division and Weston
Richard's, Burton
Morton Party Store, Monroe
Party World, Alpine
Big Man's? Fulton

I will visit each of these establishments, discretely or indiscreetly take photos and gather reconnaissance.
Not totally sure how to decide the "winner."  I suppose by closely monitoring my own level of revulsion, culture-shock or nervousness for my safety and at the end deciding which visit left the deepest emotional scars?  Truth is, I enjoy ghetto stuff. Maybe the winner is whichever place I feel the most at home?  I don't know, I'm making this shit up as I go.  I seem to end up frequenting shady party stores anyway, why not make a project out of it.
I think it would be more fun if I can figure out how to create an online pole and let people cast votes.
Let The People democratically decide which G.R. party store sucks the worst!
Somebody's going to win though and the prize is being secretly mocked on the internet.

I think the first one I'll visit this week is Family Pantry. Stay tuned......

Family Pantry already earns +5 Ghetto points for broken sign

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Before Mulligans, there was "Faces"

So apparently, Mulligan's in Eastown has not existed throughout all eternity, as I'd previously thought.
It was once a bar called Faces.  This band flyer from 1983 is from a show there...

Thanks to Brad at Sprout Media Group for pointing me to this one.
It's from the interesting facebook group, Viking Hall is now a Burger King.
Now I'm curious when Mulligan's got started. I arrived in G.R. in '86 myself. I know very little of what was going on here before then.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Top of the Rock, aka Club 911

To keep it interesting, I decided to expand this blarg to also be about places which no longer exist.

If you were a teen in the 80s or 90s in Grand Rapids, I'll bet you set foot in this certain all-ages club out on Alpine Avenue at least once, if not every week you could. The place went by a few different names during it's run. Thunderchicken, Red Zone, DV8... but it would mostly be remembered as Club 911 or Top of the Rock.
It seems a really unlikely situation for a successful club. It was a warehouse-looking building surrounded by woods, pretty far out on Alpine near 6-Mile. There must have been few options for underage kids in those days.
I had grown up in smalltown Michigan and though I wasn't a total hick, I would say I hadn't been exposed to a lot of different culture. When I found Top of the Rock in '87 it was like a different planet. An awesome planet!

I think it must have been a Thursday, which was their "alternative night."  The DJ was spinning stuff like The Cure, Erasure, New Order, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, Violent Femmes, Ministry and all sorts of other bands that were completely off the radar of the Top-40 that made up my musical experience to that point. The place was packed and these kids were getting down!  So much unnaturally-colored hair, including the dudes. Yeah, back home, the craziest thing anybody did to their hair is one kid had shaved stripes into the sides, Vanilla Ice style.
I know they did other theme nights other days of the week at Top of the Rock but I never went to any but the alternative nights.

At some point in the night, I remember the music would change to some harder stuff.... I imagine them playing "Master of Puppets" and "Turbo Lover" but I'm not sure if that really happened but a slam-pit ensued. Something I had never really witnessed before, you know, in the country. Bunch of dudes alternating between going in a circle and beating the shit out of each other. If somebody fell down, somebody would always help them back up. They only did the pit once a night and only maybe 3 songs and then it would go back to dance time.
After a pretty unrewarding highschool experience, finding a place like this seemed like a breakthrough.  I went as often as I could.

Many long-time GR residents "of a certain age" went to Top back in the day. The hispanic-looking dude in the left half of this photo happens to be GR bar-photographer extrordinare, Two-Eagles Marcus.

Other things I can remember.... plenty of underage drinking, usually in somebody's car in the lot.
Sneaking people in. The kids who couldn't make the $3 cover would go around to the fire escape door and wait for somebody to open up and let them in.
Lots of groping and making out during slow dances.
Going there "on acid."
Donating plasma the day before in order to have enough money for acid and the cover to get into Top.
I remember the kids always calling it "Tip Of The Cock" har har.
Bands would sometimes play. I seem to remember that Information Society played there but I didn't go that week.
I am pretty sure a kid DIED in the place. I may have actually witnessed this. I remember finishing up on one of the video games in the little game room and walking out to find the music off and all the kids standing around the sides of the dance floor as a kid was being taken out by paramedics on a stretcher. He was mumbling delirious. Then at some point in the week I heard he actually died on the way to the hospital. Never found out what had really happened.

I am not really sure at what point or why they started with the name-changes but I remember in the 90s it became Club 911 and new generations were coming in as other kids were getting old enough to go to bars and moved on to Reptile House or "Alternative A to X" at the Orbit Room.
A lot of the people I still have contact with from back then are younger than me and will remember it more from the 911 era and never went when it was TOTR.

Abandoned, 1998.
I believe they finally closed in 1996, with the name being "DV8."  The place sat there vacant for a couple years. Eventually some time I drove by and happened to noticed it was now something else. Nothing really left to indicate it was ever there except people with stories of our decadent youth, or what we can still remember!

Before Top of the Rock, back in the 70s the place was known as Thunder Chicken. Wish I could've experienced that!

Outside of the building as "Thunderchicken"
Long gone now, the building is now Hanson's Collision