book reviews, nostalgia

Happy Christmas Eve, 2021! A look at the magical world of Stephen Cosgrove…

After a couple of really frigid days in Germany, it suddenly warmed up today. I didn’t have to break the ice in Noyzi’s water bowl, as I have for most of this week. Our back yard is a mud pit, thanks to weeks of rain. Curiously, the rose bush in the backyard still has two blooms on it. It’s kind of poignant to look at it… those resilient crimson blooms are hanging on for dear life, even as New Year’s approaches. Maybe it’s a sign of hope.

It kind of reminds me of a book I loved when I was a horse crazy girl in Virginia. It’s probably no surprise that I loved reading, so the school book fairs were a big hit, as far as I was concerned. Sometime in fourth grade, I got hooked on children’s author, Stephen Cosgrove’s, books. I especially loved the ones he wrote about horses, and there were a lot of them. He also wrote books with other animals as the protagonists. I didn’t read as many of those books, because when I was a child, horses were my passion. I would probably love his other books.

I would definitely choose Stephen Cosgrove over Dr. Seuss. I guess that’s another way Ex and I are very different.

Cosgrove would marry animal characters with beautiful illustrations by his colleague, Robin James. The stories always had a winning combination of magic, royalty, fantasy, and morals. Since, as far as I was concerned, horses were the most beautiful animals, I was especially enchanted by his books about them in any incarnation.

One of my favorite stories by Stephen Cosgrove was his book, Shimmeree, which was about a majestic winged mare– a lightosaur– who lived in a crystal water droplet. The only colors in Shimmeree’s crystalized world were blue, gold, and silver. One day, Shimmeree discovered a speck of dust lands in a crack the droplet. Shimmeree and her friends had never seen dust before, and it scared them. They shied away from the dust, thinking it was dangerous, because it was a color they had never seen before– grayish-brown.

Some time passes, and Shimmeree and her friends continue to be worried about the dust and the strange pearl shaped seed within it. What was it? Was it dangerous? The leader of the lightosaurs wanted to destroy the seed before it harmed them.

Shimmeree stood up for the seed. She pleaded with her friends not to destroy the seed, just because it was different. Shimmeree offered to watch the seed, promising that if it turned out to be dangerous, they could destroy it.

One day, the seed broke open, and Shimmeree saw the color green for the first time. She went to tell the others, and they all rushed back to the seed. The green color casted by the light on the others, and they became truly frightened. They were going to destroy the plant, but Shimmeree talked them out of it. Then, while everyone slept, she moved the plant to another place.

When the creatures came back to destroy the plant, they realized it was gone. The group was thrilled that it was gone, but just then, it bloomed and cast the most beautiful shade of red, which was reflected on everyone. The group went to where Shimmeree had moved the plant, which had bloomed into a beautiful rose.

So pretty!

And Shimmeree and her friends learned that they had nothing to fear but fear itself… Below is a video reading of this story.

I loved this book when I was a kid!

I did love Shimmeree, but I don’t think it was my favorite Stephen Cosgrove book. I was just reminded of that story because of the tenacious roses in our yard. Usually, by this time of year, the roses are long gone. Given how challenging the COVID times have been, I think it’s kind of cool that the roses are still hanging on… or, it could just be another sign of global warming and climate change. This cynical side I have is one reason why I don’t think I would make a very good children’s author, as much as I loved to read children’s books.

I think my favorite book by Stephen Cosgrove might be Morgan & Me. I identified with the protagonist, although I don’t tend to “live in the land of Later”… I’m just not so good about cleaning up my room. I don’t procrastinate, though. I think I was just taken by the little princess and her trip through the enchanting forest, where she met Morgan, a unicorn whose horn was stuck in branches.

I miss some things about being a child.
Blessed are children’s authors who can come up with magical stories…

True to her nature, the princess promised to help the unicorn named Morgan. But just a little later…

She finally helped Morgan when she became bored. Once she freed Morgan, he followed her, until she fell into a lily pond. She asked Morgan for help, and he promised he would… but just a little later. The princess begged for help, since she knew she’d catch cold sitting on a lily pad. Then she realized why Morgan was doing what he was doing and apologized for making him wait. He lowered his horn and rescued the princess. She learned a lesson, and they became the best of friends!

Stephen Cosgrove wrote so many other awesome books for children that were easy to read, beautifully illustrated, and enchanting. I probably should order some of them to read on the days when I’m feeling especially cranky. Based on the YouTube videos people have made, reading Stephen Cosgrove’s books, he was very popular among people my age… especially the girls. I think a lot of my friends liked his book, Flutterby Fly. As you can see, Cosgrove would probably be inspired by Germany… many times, I have seen forests and meadows like the ones illustrated in his books.

I suddenly have an image of Vanessa Redgrave reading this… wouldn’t that be interesting?

Or Nitter Pitter, a story about a narcissistic stallion… I used to have a beagle like Nitter Pitter. He was gorgeous, and definitely knew it!

I loved this book, probably because it was about a regular horse…
And maybe because of this illustration, which inspired a lot of horsey dreams.

I often think about how much I would love to have horses in my life again, even though they are very expensive and require a lot of work. Some of my best friends in life were four legged… and the one who got me through high school was a very special Appaloosa named Rusty. He was my dearest confidant, and we made a great team. But real life was calling, so I left that world behind… Maybe someday, I can revisit it, although without as much intensity as I once had.

Last night, Noyzi the Kosovar street dog came into our bedroom and watched fox hunting videos with us. A year ago, he was terrified by the TV, especially when men were on the screen. But now he is fascinated by television, especially when there are dogs baying, as they do in fox hunts. I got a kick out of watching Noyzi react to the horses and dogs of Ireland. I used to fox hunt myself, back in the day, but fox hunting in Virginia isn’t quite as intense as it is in Ireland. Noyzi was very impressed by the show and even joined in with the barking. I always knew he was a hound at heart, even if he’s really a shepherd of some sort. I got three videos of Noyzi last night… below is the last one I took. Arran also got into it.

Anyway… I guess it’s time I got on with the day. I hope, if you’re celebrating, you have an excellent holiday– Christmas or whatever– and there’s no drama or strife. And if there is, I recommend watching a few videos of people reading Stephen Cosgrove books. They’ll take you away from the ugliness of this world for a few moments.

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bad TV, good tv, movies, nostalgia, TV, videos, YouTube

Angel Dusted, Desperate Lives, ended with a Final Escape…

Happy Saturday to everyone. It’s cold and grey here near Wiesbaden, Germany. Good news, though. My new Thunderbolt cable just arrived, so now I don’t have to hang around the house waiting for the delivery guy. Or maybe I do. There is one more package I’m waiting for before I declare my Christmas shopping done for 2021. It could show up today. It probably won’t, though.

It’s been quite a dramatic month so far, and it’s really flying by. Pretty soon, it’ll be 2022, and people are already noticing…

Yikes!

Actually, I’m not that afraid of 2022. Being fearful of the future isn’t productive. It will happen no matter what. Besides, we’ve already survived 2020 and 2021. How much worse could it be? Don’t answer that!

I’ve decided that today, I’m going to write one of my “fun” (for me, anyway) TV nostalgia pieces. I don’t feel like ranting about irksome behavior from strangers, opining about people who are in court, or writing very personal stuff about my life. Nope, today I’m going to write about some stuff that was on TV when I was a child. I love to watch old crap from the past on YouTube, and I’m grateful to content creators who are there for me with an impressive collection of that stuff. It’s always a bit unsettling to realize how long ago the early 80s were. It seems like yesterday.

Over the past 48 hours or so, I’ve watched some 80s era TV that was universally entertaining, but for different reasons. It’s easy to forget that the 80s were very different for a lot of reasons. For one thing, for a good portion of the decade, there were only three major networks, plus public television. If you had access to cable, you might have had 20 or 30 channels. I think when my parents got basic cable in 1980, we had about 12 or 14 channels, which seemed like a lot at the time. Consequently, there were a lot of movies of the week and TV shows that everyone watched. Some of the TV fare available in those days is truly laughable today.

In 1981, I was 8 or 9 years old. I was 8 until June of that year, anyway. And one movie that aired and I missed was called Angel Dusted, which premiered on NBC in February of that year. In fact, I had never heard of that movie until I stumbled across it, totally by chance, yesterday morning. It starred the late Jean Stapleton (aka Edith Bunker) and her son, John Putch, as well as the late Arthur Hill. Helen Hunt also has a role. Gosh, she was so pretty when she was a teenager!

There are a couple of videos with this movie on YouTube, but I’m uploading this one, because it also includes ads from 1981. They are a hoot to watch, especially since I remember them well and realize how strange they are 40 years later!

Back in the 80s, there was a lot of press about drug abuse. That was the “Just say no!” era, championed by Nancy Reagan. Drug abuse is a serious problem, but some of the films put out about them in the early 80s were truly ridiculous. I’m happy to report that Angel Dusted is actually a very well done film, save for the hokey title. I never saw Jean Stapleton in much besides All in the Family, so it was a pleasant shock to see her in this film with her talented son, John Putch.

Putch plays Owen Eaton, a high achieving college student who attends an excellent university and is under pressure to make top grades in a demanding major. One night, Owen smokes a marijuana joint laced with PCP– angel dust– and it makes him have a psychotic breakdown. The doctor at the infirmary where he attends school calls Owen’s parents, Betty and Michael Eaton (Stapleton and Hill), and they rush to the other side of the state to pick up their boy. They arrive at the infirmary to find him strapped to the bed, screaming and wrestling. The doctor at the infirmary, played by familiar and prolific character actor, Jerry Hardin, tells them that Owen needs to be hospitalized.

Betty and Michael soon find themselves plunged into a crisis, as their son is put in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks, completely unable to function and surrounded by people who have organic mental illnesses. Betty is the dutiful doting mother. Michael is ashamed and withdraws. Their other three children, Mark (Ken Michelman), Lizzie (Helen Hunt), and Andrew (Brian Andrews) are forced to deal with the shifting focus in their family as Owen recovers from the psychotic reaction.

Parts of this film are very 80s and make me feel older than dirt. It was weird to see nurses in white dresses and caps, remembering that in those days, that’s how they looked. I also noticed things like the house, with all its wallpaper and big boxy televisions. This was all normal when I was a child, but now it’s different. We have flat screens, textured walls, and people don’t necessarily have dinner in the dining room. A lot of newer houses don’t have dining rooms! Some of the dialogue is also pretty dated, too.

But– I really thought this film was well acted and had a compelling story. I also liked that touch of early 80s cheese and over the top drama that made it interesting and entertaining in 2021. There’s a lot more to Jean Stapleton than Edith Bunker, that’s for damned sure! I don’t know how common it is for people to smoke PCP laced marijuana joints these days, and we certainly have a very different attitude about marijuana nowadays. But I do think Angel Dusted is well done and worth watching if you have a couple of spare hours and enjoy movies of the week circa 1981. The cast is excellent, too.

MOVING ON…

The next film I would like to mention is another one from the same time period. It also featured Helen Hunt. This time, she wasn’t playing a put upon sister who was inconvenienced by her brother’s ingestion of PCP. This time, Hunt is the one who goes a little crazy!

The film is called Desperate Lives. In the past, the whole thing was posted on YouTube. Nowadays, it looks like only a few of the funnier clips are available there, although I did find the whole film here. I’ve seen that movie enough times to comment on it, though. It aired in March 1982, and it was very entertaining, but for very different reasons than Angel Dusted was. Desperate Lives was also about the evils of drugs and the terrible things they do to young people. But instead of realistically focusing on what can happen when someone gets on a bad trip, this film employs really stupid special effects and bad acting to get the point across. Below are a few clips I’ve found on YouTube.

A song by Rick Springfield, who was big at the time.
Diana Scarwid, who played the adult version of Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, is a high school guidance counselor who tries to shave everyone’s buzz.

It’s the beginning of a new school year in California. Young guidance counselor, Eileen Phillips, has arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed for her new job. She is newly graduated and enthusiastic for what she expects will be a rewarding career, shaping young people’s lives as they embark on adulthood. But the school where Eileen works has a terrible drug problem and all of the adults who run the school are turning a blind eye. Eileen is determined to straighten everybody out and, in the meantime, entertains viewers with some truly ridiculous scenarios.

Oh lord… this scene is particularly infamous. Helen Hunt jumps out a window, lands on her back, and gets up physically fine as she screams.
“I’m glad we’re all SANE!”
An ad for Desperate Lives. Actually, you could watch this ad and get most of the funniest scenes in the movie.

Doug McKeon, who was in On Golden Pond, tries to add some credibility to this film. He’s a special student and a swimmer on the swim team, which puts him closer to Eileen, as she’s also the swimming coach. Helen Hunt, God bless her and her prodigious talent, really gave it her all playing a “crazed” girl on PCP. But this movie, compared to Angel Dusted, just sucks. However, it IS entertaining, just because it’s unintentionally hilarious. I definitely got the point that drugs are bad, mmm’kay? This might have been a better movie with a different leading lady. Diana Scarwid was very attractive in the early 80s, but she’s not a very good actress, in my opinion. Diane Ladd and Dr. Joyce Brothers also make appearances!

And finally, I would like to comment on a 1985 episode of the New Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I remember when this episode, titled “Final Escape” originally aired. I was really affected by it at the time. At 13, I was the kind of viewer television executives loved. I could easily suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoying a TV show.

Season Hubley plays a nasty bitch in prison who has a scary end…

Season Hubley plays Lena Trent, a woman who has been in and out of prison, and has a history of escaping. She’s shown having been convicted of murder, and sent off to a life sentence in the big house, Mojave Prison, where just four hours after her arrival, she gets into it with the prison queen bee. But Lena is very manipulative, particularly toward men. She charms the warden, again played by Jerry Hardin, who was also in Angel Dusted (and also had a couple of memorable turns on The Golden Girls). The warden yells at Lena for getting in a fight, but then inexplicably gives her a job that gets her away from the other inmates and puts her at a level of lower security.

Lena then works in the prison infirmary, where she meets a kindly Black man named Doc (Davis Roberts) who has super thick cataracts and can barely see. Doc helps out on the ward and buries the prisoners who die. The dead prisoners are buried outside of the prison walls. Lena is nice to Doc at first, listening to him moan about how the state doesn’t want to give him the money to get cataract surgery so he can see better. She soon realizes that he has free access to the outside of the prison, when it’s time to bury the dead; this causes her to hatch a new escape plan.

One day, a letter from the state arrives for Doc. In it, Doc is notified that he has been granted the money for the surgery. But Lena has another plan. She breaks Doc’s glasses on purpose, effectively making it impossible for him to see. Then she reads the letter, telling him that his request has been denied. Naturally, Doc is disappointed and pissed! Lena tells him she has a lot of money and will give him the money to get his surgery if he’ll help her escape.

Doc agrees… with tragic and scary results.

If you haven’t yet watched the episode and don’t want spoilers, stop reading here. I do recommend watching the video if this description has piqued your interest.

Lena asks Doc to bury her with the corpse, and then dig her up a few hours later, when the coast is clear. Doc initially refuses, telling Lena that she’ll suffocate. But Lena assures Doc that she can hang for a few hours, and once he’s done her this favor, Lena will pay for his eye surgery (which of course, she wouldn’t, because she’s a nasty bitch). Doc tells her to come to the infirmary and climb into the coffin with the corpse, which Lena does.

Sure enough, she gets buried. It’s never explained how two bodies managed to fit in one coffin. It’s also never explained why no one noticed how much heavier the coffin was, with two bodies in it, one of which wasn’t embalmed.

We see Lena in the coffin, somehow with enough air to talk to herself. She’s sweating and seems uncomfortable, but she has her eyes on the prize– a final escape from Mojave Prison, with Doc’s help. Finally, after a few hours, Lena starts to worry. She somehow lights a match, which would have used up some of that precious oxygen. That’s when she realizes that the corpse she’s sharing the coffin with is Doc! And no one else knows she’s been buried!

Of course, this could never happen. Even in the 1980s, there’s no way someone with Lena’s history would score a job with lower security standards. And there’s no way she would fit in a coffin with another corpse. And there’s no way she would light a match in a coffin like that… But it did make for compelling and scary television, back in the days when people didn’t mind suspending belief.

Well… it’s been fun writing about these old gems from the 80s today, instead of kvetching about people who piss me off, exploring psychology and narcissism, and dishing about the Duggar family. I suspect this post won’t get a lot of hits… or maybe it will. Sometimes, people surprise me. I know that Desperate Lives is a guilty pleasure film for a lot of people. And I can see on YouTube, that I wasn’t the only one who was permanently traumatized by that episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Angel Dusted is less notoriously cheesy, but is probably the highest quality production of the lot, at least in this post. Perhaps if this post is well-received, I’ll write another. I love watching this stuff.

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bad TV, healthcare, nostalgia

Trapper John, M.D. is basically The Love Boat, but with a medical theme…

In the featured screenshot, Gonzo gets physical with a teenaged deaf patient, whom he calls “sweetheart” as he ties her to the bed… Eew. He later manages to “tame” her and get her reacquainted with the mother who abandoned her when she was a baby.

There are several serious issues I could be writing about today, but it’s Friday, and Bill is coming home tonight. Aside from that, it’s a gloomy, rainy morning, and I just don’t feel like wading into the bad news that is all over the Internet today. Nah… I’d rather write about something totally off the wall and goofy… I suspect only people of a certain age will even care about this post. That suits me fine. So here goes…

For some reason, I’ve been binge watching old episodes of Trapper John, M.D. all week. That show, which was loosely based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel that brought us the movie and television show, M*A*S*H, premiered in September 1979, when I was seven years old. It was a medical drama, with occasional elements of comedy, and as I recall, it aired on Sunday nights at 10pm on the in the eastern U.S. time zone. In 1979, I lived in Fairfax, Virginia, which is a suburb of Washington, DC. Trapper John was on way past my bedtime in those days, but I do remember my mom used to watch it. It ran for seven seasons, finally ending in the summer of 1986, when I was about 14.

Every once in awhile, when I was growing up, I’d manage to see an episode of Trapper John, never realizing that it was basically a spinoff of M*A*S*H, which also aired during my childhood. I remember watching M*A*S*H more regularly, as it came on at a time that was more conducive to my bedtime. But it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I found out that the two shows, which seemed so different from each other, were related in any way. If I recall correctly, both aired on CBS, which always seemed like kind of a stodgy network to me. And now I realize that by even mentioning a big three network, I’m dating myself. Today’s young people have no idea about the struggle of only having a few channels to watch. 😉

Watching Trapper John, M.D. has been an interesting experience. Last night, after watching I don’t know how many episodes, I concluded that the show is basically The Love Boat, only with a medical theme. Every week, there were different guest stars, some of whom recurred in the same role, and some who came back as different characters. I remember The Love Boat was similar, in that a lot of people had more than one voyage on the Princess, but as different characters. Both shows, as well as shows like CHiPs, Dallas, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, and the like, were great vehicles for aging movie stars and Broadway performers.

In Season One of Trapper John, M.D., Trapper’s scrub nurse is a heavyset lady with a distinctively clear speaking voice named Starch. Starch is, of course, a nickname, and she was played by Mary McCarty, who was in her 50s at the time. Mary McCarty was a well-known torch singer and actress who did a lot of stage work and some movies. She was even in All That Jazz, a movie I never get tired of watching, but didn’t discover until I was 18– again, because I was only seven when it was released and it was rated R. Sadly, Mary only lasted a season on Trapper John, because she died very suddenly of a heart attack at just 56 years of age. I’m only seven years younger than Mary was when she died, but I think I look a hell of a lot younger. That’s another thing about the 70s and 80s… I don’t think people held their ages quite as well then, probably because of all the smoking.

There were a lot of other legendary actors on that show, as well as a few less legendary ones. A couple of days ago, I happened to catch an episode from the first season that starred Robbie Rist, aka “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch. I follow Robbie Rist on Facebook, because I think he’s hilarious and I agree with his views on a lot of things. He changed his profile photo yesterday, and I was able to make a comment, even though we aren’t “friends”. The picture he posted cracked me up; so I said so, then mentioned that I’d just seen him on Trapper John, M.D. The episode is called “The Surrogate”, and it was made just as Robbie’s voice was changing.

So true.

Robbie asked me where I found his episode, so I shared the link. For some reason, the uploader has versions of Trapper John that were partly dubbed in German, which of course is useful for me, especially since they also helpfully included English subtitles. What’s strange is that only parts of the episode are in German. The rest of it is in English, minus subtitles. Robbie then shared the link in a separate post and even gave me a shout out. I enjoyed reading the comments from his friends.

This episode also features Kim Cattrall, whose belly dancing character comes from the Middle East as is promised to Gonzo Gates in marriage. I guess it makes sense, since Iran was very much in the news in 1979. I clearly remember that, even though I was only 7 years old at the time.

It’s only been somewhat recently that I’ve started to accept the fact that I’m getting old. Today, I spotted the beginnings of what will probably be a varicose vein on my upper right thigh. I noticed a small section of a purplish looking vein popping out of my flesh this morning, then remembered that my mom has similar looking veins on her legs. I’m a lot like my mom on many levels. If I were standing next to her, you would definitely be able to tell that she’s my mom. I already have the dreaded spider veins and ruddy skin that comes from Celtic genes, just like she does. And I’m sure I will have high blood pressure, if I don’t already have it. She has it, and my grandmother had it. On the few occasions I let a doctor see me, they’ve assumed I have it, although so far, they haven’t been able to make that diagnosis. Of course, I haven’t seen a physician in over ten years.

Watching this show has the weird effect of reminding me of when I was very young, and also reminding me that I’m now getting old. I listen to the sexist, paternalistic language from the show’s male stars– Pernell Roberts in the title role, Gregory Harrison as the hot Lothario doctor, Gonzo Gates, Charle Siebert as Stanley Riverside, Jr., and Brian Stokes Mitchell as the token black doctor, Jackpot. Trapper and Gonzo are particularly paternalistic, especially toward the women. They call their female patients and colleagues “kiddo”, “baby”, “young lady”, “girl”, “sweetheart”, and “honey”. A lot of my regular readers, and people who actually know me, know that I hate pet names from people with whom I don’t share a bed. I think I would lose teeth from compulsive grinding if I were in the hospital and my doctor called me cutesy names. But I guess this was considered appealing back in the day…

What is also interesting to me is seeing how improbable the storylines are. For one thing, the patients all look way too healthy to be in the hospital. There are very rarely any truly convincing dramatic moments on this show. Very few patients ever come close to actually dying. Most seem to be on vacation, electing to “stick around” for a few days. I watched an episode this morning in which a lupus patient elects to take herself off all drugs and treatment protocols in lieu of a holistic approach. Then she checks out of the hospital and goes home with a guy who has developed the new holistic approach. He’s rich, and has a huge house with servants. We see him pouring her champagne as they lounge on the patio… Suddenly, she’s moaning in pain. Gonzo shows up with an ambulance, which the holistic guru turns away.

Having earned a master’s degree in public health with a health administration focus, I know that nowadays, you have to be pretty sick to be hospitalized. People in the hospital don’t just stay there for a rest. And certainly, none look as hale and hearty as the ones on Trapper John. I saw another episode yesterday with a woman who had Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was bright and beautiful looking, but was sitting in a wheelchair. When she knocks over her checkers game, she pleads with Gonzo not to tell Trapper, because he’ll “put her to bed”. Sure enough, Trapper does try to order her to bed, but she says no thanks, and wheels off to do her “living”. That does not seem like a very realistic scenario today, and I doubt it was in 1979 or 1980, either. No one on Trapper John really looks sick… and it doesn’t seem to have even occurred to the writers to even try to make them look the part. Yet this show lasted seven seasons!

I remember back in 1997, I spent a few days in an Austrian town called St. Poelten. I was alone, so I spent time in my hotel room, watching TV. Trapper John, M.D. was airing, and I distinctly remember watching it, along with annoying German dish detergent commercials. One was for a product called “Lemon Frisch” and had a jingle that ripped off the melody for the late 50s pop song, “Lollipop”. I guess this was a popular show in Germany and German speaking countries. I have never been in a German hospital, but I have always imagined German doctors to be on the authoritative side, kind of like Trapper and Gonzo… although I’m sure they don’t romance their patients or use terms of endearment to address them before they send them a bill for services rendered.

Watching Trapper John, M.D., one gets the sense that these doctors were in the business out of the goodness of their hearts and never charged their patients a cent. Why else would wine swilling Gonzo Gates live in a crappy RV called The Titanic, parked in the hospital parking lot? He regularly romances nurses in the RV, and they are all somehow impressed solely by his good looks, rather than repulsed by his primitive living conditions. We’re also supposed to believe that the nurses don’t all end up hating Gonzo for loving and leaving them, as he must, since he’s single and constantly on the make.

The doctors on Trapper John, M.D. freely discuss patient cases with anyone and everyone– with other doctors, with family members and friends, and even with perfect strangers! These were the days before HIPAA, don’t you know? Seems like just yesterday! And in Germany, it still is yesterday, since HIPAA isn’t a thing here. My dentist is happy to tell Bill all about my mouth when we go visit him. He’ll even do it in the hallway, where the rest of the waiting room can hear. I notice that they often had storylines that were kind of topical in the 80s, though. Like, for instance, one episode involved a child living in a bubble, much like the case of David Vetter, a Texas boy about my age who had such challenges with his immune system that he was forced to spend his entire life in a sterile environment. Nowadays, I doubt David Vetter would live that way.

Another thing I noticed, besides the improbable storylines, is that Trapper and Gonzo often work outside of their areas of specialization. I saw an episode last night that had Trapper and Gonzo, who are hotshot cardio-thoracic surgeons, doing a delicate eye surgery on a young woman. And they are being led through the surgery by a retired alcoholic eye surgeon who had just been on a bender and had trembling hands. That particular episode included a mention of the “n-bomb”, which was not such an uncommon thing in the 80s. They also work on pediatric cases, such as the episode involving Robbie Rist

This week, while binging on this show, I have learned that the exterior shots in the opening credits were filmed at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, a hospital in Los Angeles that is now owned by a South Korean company. The real life hospital doesn’t get the best ratings or reviews on Google, however, most of the patients are evidently of Korean descent. I keep looking at pictures of that hospital, trying to find the iconic tower shown on the opening credits of Trapper John, M.D., which had a pretty realistic looking set at 20th Century Fox Studios.

And finally… the last thing I noticed is that Trapper John, M.D. has sort of a kinky element to it. Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least three episodes involving patients being restrained to protect them from themselves. One episode in particular, involving a deaf girl with celiac disease that Gonzo almost runs over with his crappy R.V., shows the girl being restrained several times. And Gonzo develops kind of a quasi parental-romantic attachment to her. It’s definitely a bit cringeworthy. On the other hand, I’m sure there are women out there who might fantasize about being restrained by Gregory Harrison. He was quite the hottie back in the day… or, at least some women (and perhaps even some men) thought so. Even a lady on Robbie Rist’s thread about this show mentioned how “dreamy” ol’ Gregory Harrison was in his Gonzo days.

We’re gonna help you whether you want it or not! And if you don’t behave, we’ll get out the restraints! Maybe this is why the show aired after 10pm. It seems very family friendly by today’s standards, except for the occasional n-bomb being dropped.

Incidentally, I did some research on Gregory Harrison. He’s been married to actress/model Randi Oakes for about 40 years. Randi Oakes famously played a lady cop (and car thief) on CHiPs. She was also on The Love Boat. The couple share four grown children– three natural daughters and an adopted son. Sadly, it appears that Harrison’s son has had some legal troubles and is currently incarcerated in Idaho for sexual offenses against a minor under age 16. His daughters, on the other hand, are quite gorgeous and seem to be doing well.

CHiPs was another show that was blatantly sexist and featured characters that were overly involved in the lives of the guest stars’ characters. It’s a show with very little basis in reality. But I guess we liked that shit in the late 70s and early 80s… It’s hard to believe I was alive when that kind of show was the norm. I don’t know why I watch it, since today, it would all be considered dreck. I guess I’m just fascinated with the past, and how very quickly years pass once you’re over 21.

Anyway, I know I should watch some newer shows… and I have downloaded some. There’s something very comforting about old shows, and a reminder of how things used to be, back in the days before the Internet… and COVID-19. But if I ever have a horny doctor with a receding hairline and a beard who calls me “kiddo” or “young lady”, they might have to get out the restraints for me, too.

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nostalgia, politics, travel

Repost: Remembering Samantha Smith… pen pal to world leaders

Here’s another repost from June 2018, a post inspired by my childhood in the 1980s. This one is about the late Samantha Smith, who made history by writing to Yuri Andropov and getting invited to visit the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Samantha was nine days younger than me, but sadly, she died in a plane crash in 1985. Little did I know, when Samantha was alive, that I, too, would one day go to what was once the Soviet Union. The 80s were an interesting time to be a kid.

I was born on June 20, 1972.  Nine days later, Samantha Smith was born.  Samantha Smith would change the world during her 13 years of life.  I’m about to turn 46 (and now I’m 49) and I’m still wondering what my purpose is. 

A few weeks ago, I suddenly remembered Samantha Smith, who was ten years old when she wrote a moving letter to former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.  She was concerned about the threat of nuclear war.  In the early 1980s, everyone was talking about nukes and the so-called “red button”.  Like so many of her peers, Samantha was scared.  But she had guts and initiative.  So, in November 1982, she wrote:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely,

Samantha Smith  

This was not Samantha’s first letter to a world leader.  In fact, she’d even written to another leader when she was five– Queen Elizabeth II– to express her admiration.  Samantha’s letter was printed in the Soviet paper, Pravda, but she did not receive a reply from Andropov right away.  Undaunted, Samantha wrote another letter, this time to the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Mr. Andropov was very moved by Samantha’s letter.  He wrote back to her in April 1983, affirmed that the Soviet Union did not want to wage a nuclear war, and invited her to visit the Soviet Union at a time when Americans were not often allowed to go there. 

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

In the summer of 1983, Samantha visited Russia, where she caused quite a sensation.  She spent two weeks in Moscow as Mr. Andropov’s guest and had the opportunity to visit Artek, which was a big Soviet pioneer camp.  During the Soviet era, young children were involved in the Young Pioneers, which was a massive youth organization.  She also went to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she was presented with many gifts.  Smith and her parents were amazed by how friendly the people were.

So many years later, I was watching Samantha Smith on old YouTube videos.  There are many comments from Russians who remembered and admired her.  She truly was a heroine to many Russians and Americans alike, although there were some skeptics out there who felt she was being used as a Soviet propaganda pawn.

When Samantha and her parents came home to Maine, they were treated to a warm welcome involving a red carpet and limousine.  Samantha was interviewed by many famous people, including Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson.  In 1985, she even tried her hand at acting when she was cast as a regular in a TV show called Lime Street

Samantha Smith interviewed by Johnny Carson.
Samantha Smith being interviewed on The Today Show, after she had become a media sensation.

Tragically, on August 25, 1985, Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash.  They were returning home on Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after having filmed a segment for Lime Street.  The pilot was attempting to land the plane when it hit some trees 4007 feet shy of the runway. The airplane crashed, killing the six passengers and two crew members aboard.  Although some in the Soviet Union thought she might have been a victim of foul play, an investigation revealed that the pilots were inexperienced and the rainy weather conditions contributed to the difficulty in landing the plane.

News story about Samantha Smith’s death.

Samantha Smith’s visit inspired goodwill all over the world, especially in the United States and Russia.  In fact, in 1986, a Soviet child named Katya Lycheva even spent time in the United States.  A 1987 storyline on The Golden Girls was even inspired by Samantha’s story, although it was ditzy Rose Nylund who wrote the letter, not a ten year old girl.

Rose’s “Letter to Gorbachev”… 

I wonder what would have become of Samantha Smith had she been able to grow up.  I wonder what she would think of our current political situation.  I think of what it was like for me, 23 years ago, moving to what was once a Soviet country and finding out that the people over there are much like we are.  She could have had a wonderful career, spreading world peace and goodwill.  Some people are never meant to grow old, yet still manage to change the world.  

When I was watching videos on YouTube last night, I also thought of Ryan White, who was another one of my contemporaries.  He contracted AIDS after having been given a tainted blood infusion to treat his hemophilia.  Ryan White was kicked out of school and harassed by his peers for having AIDS.  In those days, a lot of small minded people thought of it as a disease God sent to punish gay people.  It didn’t help that Ryan was from a small town in Indiana, where there were many ignorant people who thought he was gay simply because he had what was then considered a “gay” disease.

White went on to influence the world, even making friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, both of whom were at his funeral when he died in April 1990.  I vividly remember watching Lukas Haas play White in a TV movie about his life.  White was himself in the film with a minor role.  So was Sarah Jessica Parker.

While we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS since Ryan White’s day, we’re still really struggling with world peace.  I just started reading another book about the Holocaust.  It’s a story about a Jewish Dutch woman who watched as her country was overtaken by Nazis.  I have to confess, reading her comments about what happened before Hitler completely took over gave me chills.  So much of it is familiar today.  Maybe it’s not quite as extreme now as it was in the 40s… or maybe it just doesn’t seem as extreme to me as it might to someone with brown skin, living in America’s Heartland.  The one thing that gives me hope is that the world eventually came to its senses somewhat, after World War II.  I hope it doesn’t come to war to make the powers that be in the United States regain their senses…  

Well, those are my deep thoughts for today.  The 1980s were fascinating.  I’m glad I was around to see them. 

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music, nostalgia, true crime

Repost: Remembering Lisa Steinberg…

I wrote this post on June 23, 2017. I am posting it again because I’m not inspired this morning… at least not yet. Also, I just posted about “Dear Mr. Jesus” in a Facebook group I’m in and am now revolted anew by that song. So here it is… a rehashed, as/is post. Maybe later, I’ll write something fresh.

For some strange reason, I was reminded of a song from my youth yesterday.  I’ve already blogged about “Dear Mr. Jesus” on my music blog, but that was a pretty short entry.  I think it was short because besides being associated with very depressing case of horrific child abuse, “Dear Mr. Jesus” is an overtly religious song that kind of gives me the creeps.

Someone set this song to the Sims 2…  The group is called PowerSource and the soloist is six year old Sharon Batts.  They were from Bedford, Texas.
The official video for this song is quite extra… The girl looks like Molly Ringwald when she was on The Facts of Life.

Anyway, “Dear Mr. Jesus” was popular in 1987 or 88, although it was originally recorded in 1985.  I used to hear it on morning radio right around Christmas 1987.  It was constantly played around the time that six year old Elizabeth “Lisa” Steinberg was in the news.  Her illegally adoptive father, disbarred former criminal defense attorney, Joel Steinberg, had beaten her on November 1, 1987.  Steinberg was under the influence of crack cocaine when he struck the little girl.  For hours, Lisa was left in the care of Steinberg’s live in partner, Hedda Nussbaum, who finally sought medical help for the girl when Joel Steinberg went out to party with some friends.

Lisa spent days languishing in Saint Vincent’s Hospital before she died of her injuries on November 5, 1987.  Officials noticed that both Nussbaum and another illegally adopted child, Mitchell, both had signs of physical abuse.  Nussbaum was not prosecuted for the events leading to Lisa’s death because she agreed to testify against Joel Steinberg, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter.  He spent about sixteen years in New York’s Southport Correctional Facility, a “supermax” prison, because it was presumed he was at risk of other inmates attacking him.

Joel Steinberg was paroled in June 2004.  His illegally adopted son, Mitchell, was returned to his biological mother.  In 2007, a judge upheld an order for Steinberg to pay Michele Launders, Lisa’s birth mother, $15 million.  Launders had initially hired Steinberg to find an adoptive family for Lisa, but he chose to keep the girl and raise her as his own.  He never filed paperwork to adopt Lisa or Mitchell, so he was not legally their father.  As of 2006, Steinberg had moved to Harlem and was working in construction.  He still claims his innocence.

I was a teenager when this case was in the news; and it was in the news every day for weeks.  The tragic child abuse case made “Dear Mr. Jesus” an especially timely entry to popular music.  Americans seem to have a high tolerance for schlock, especially if there are religious overtones.  That song was very syrupy and it struck people right in the heartstrings.  I cringe when I hear it now, although it does force me to remember this very tragic and high profile case. 

Hedda Nussbaum was a former book editor who was well-educated.  She and Steinberg were considered upper-middle class.  And yet, she took his abuse, which was so severe that she needed extensive plastic surgery to repair damage to her nose.  When she called for medical help, she initially claimed that Lisa had choked on food and her bruises had come from falling while skating.  It was later determined that the child had been lying on the bathroom floor for at least ten hours before Nussbaum called for an ambulance.  

It’s hard to believe that this fall, Lisa Steinberg will have been dead for thirty years (ETA: 34 years in 2021– we just passed the anniversary).  I remember when this case was news, seeing Hedda Nussbaum’s tired, defeated face in magazines and on television.  Nussbaum’s plight brought new attention to “battered women’s syndrome” and domestic violence.  I also remember seeing Lisa’s picture.  She was tiny, unkempt, and looked so scared and traumatized.  How awful it is that her short life was filled with so much trauma.

The details of this case are shocking and depressing.  It’s hard to believe this couple was so easily hidden behind the veneer of respectability.  And yet the two innocent kids illegally adopted by them were living in filth and regularly being subjected to Steinberg’s monstrous abuse.  I really think it’s too bad Steinberg was released from prison.  At least Mitchell, now known by a different name, was able to escape Lisa’s fate.  I read that in 2004, around the time Mr. Steinberg was released from prison, he was headed for college.

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