lessons learned, nostalgia, silliness, TV

Life lessons from The Love Boat…

I love watching cheesy TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I especially enjoy watching them when I’m laid up in bed and in need of comfort. Although I’m mostly over the virus that kicked me in the butt all weekend, I was still a touch under the weather for most of Monday. I did experience sort of a second wind later in the day, but not enough of one to call myself “well”. I managed to find the energy to wash all the bed linens and turn on the robot mower 😉 , which I forgot to check on, and later found stuck in the corner of the backyard. I even summoned the energy to walk the dogs in the afternoon, which they both appreciated. But then I came back, hurled, and spent more quality time on the toilet.

Yesterday, I watched The Love Boat, an Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer television show that aired on ABC throughout most of my childhood. Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from the 1982-83 season and I found myself glued to them for most of the afternoon. Although most of the plot lines were completely ridiculous and implausible, it was still kind of fun to watch. There are even a few pearls of wisdom within the episodes.

Yes, I did have to suspend belief when I watched the late Eva Gabor (born in 1919) playing the mother of a teenaged boy in the early 80s. It was a bit jarring to see Connie Needham (born in 1959), playing the fiance of her mother’s ex boyfriend Gene Barry (born in 1919), only to have her mom steal him back. I’m sure Alan Hale, Jr. and Bob Denver, both of whom were best known for their roles on Gilligan’s Island, had a great time on the show. It’s a trip to watch the crew members romancing the passengers as they live in huge, sumptuous quarters that I know are not the reality for actual cruise crew members. But still, I remember yesterday afternoon, actually stopping in my tracks to ponder when Dr. Adam Bricker (played by Bernie Kopell) said something unexpectedly profound. Or, at least I thought it was profound when he said it… I wish I could remember what he said at this moment, but alas, the thought has passed. Oh well, next time, I’ll make a note of it.

It’s always a treat to see Charo perform. Seriously– Charo is a very talented entertainer, especially when she plays guitar. She was a staple on The Love Boat, though, and I don’t think I ever need to watch her sing “Physical” again. My respect for Charo came when she was on The Surreal Life around 2004 or so. Even though that was a silly show, Charo showed everyone that she’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for in her heyday, and she can REALLY play guitar.

Granted, this is supposed to be tacky and obnoxious, but it kind of goes beyond the pale. Charo later said she “cuchi cuchi-ed” all the way to the bank! I think I see a little Las Vegas era Tina Turner in this performance.
But at around 12:25 on this video of The Surreal Life, you can hear Charo play guitar… she does have some chops. I’d rather hear her play guitar and listen to her sing. Incidentally, this was one of the better seasons of The Surreal Life.

The Love Boat also did a couple of on location two-parters during that time period that were fun to watch, especially since Bill and I have been to some of the places they went. In 2013, we did our last SeaDream cruise from Rome to Athens, which included pre-cruise stops in Venice and Florence. The Love Boat, which usually focused on cruises to Mexico, went to Italy and Greece. They did one two-parter based on an Italian cruise, and one was based on a Greek cruise. I noticed they had some pretty high ranking guests for those episodes, too. Both specials made me want to travel! I have wanderlust anyway, but COVID-19 has made it more intense.

I’m sure all of the footage for the Italy and Greece episodes was filmed at the same time, production costs being what they were. I came to the conclusion they were filmed at the same time because I noticed that Lauren Tewes’ hair was the same “Sun-In” bleached blonde in both of the specials, plus the used the same footage of a TWA plane taking off. Forty years later, I’m amazed that people in the 80s thought that orange hydroxide look was attractive. Lisa Whelchel, who guested on the Greek special, had the same bleached hair with brassy overtones. It was pretty ghastly. As I watched the show, I realized it was work for everyone involved. But it also looked like a lot of fun to film.

I know this is a common phenomenon, but it seems like life was a lot more fun in the 80s… I know it probably wasn’t, for many reasons, but I was a kid back then. Actually, looking back on it, the 80s were hard for me, personally, because that was when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the greatest childhood. But we had all these feel good TV shows that were light entertainment. The Love Boat always had happy endings, with people falling in love, getting married, or discovering a new path in life. The staff on the ship was caring, friendly, and always invested in seeing that everyone had a good time. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were great shows to watch on Saturday nights when I was growing up– at least until we had The Golden Girls, which was a much better show on all levels.

Granted, The Love Boat definitely jumped the shark around the time they kicked Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie McCoy) off the show because of her cocaine addiction and other issues, but it always featured old movie stars alongside up and coming stars of the 80s. It was great fun to watch when I was a kid, and probably more fun to watch now for entirely different reasons. I could imagine someone turning it into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of show, where there are snarky comments made for every ridiculous scenario, cheesy band number, or godawful evening gown. Also, I noticed all the women wore dresses no matter what, many of which were pretty frumpy and uncomfortable looking, even if they weren’t having dinner.

As a child, I was oddly enchanted by evening gowns and fancy events. It’s probably because I used to love reading fairytales. I also used to love watching beauty pageants, not because I believed in evaluating women by their looks, but because I loved the evening gowns. I liked the colors and designs. But times change, and just like The Love Boat and silly shows like it, beauty pageants have also gone out of style. Even Miss America, which was probably the most prestigious pageant, has changed its focus more toward promoting scholarship and community service than beauty. I think that’s a positive thing, but I must admit that as a kid, I loved the glamour of 80s television. It was fun to revisit it over the past couple of days, watching The Love Boat, a televised intellectual equivalent to empty calories.

Having now been on some cruises myself, I now realize that there’s a price to be paid for wearing fancy duds, and not just at the cash register. I have a few sparkly dresses, but I don’t wear them well. I find them uncomfortable, and I never want to spend a lot of money on dresses that I won’t wear more than a time or two. Consequently, I don’t really look smashing in an evening gown. Even if I had a really cute figure, I think I would rather just wear a nightgown with no bra, rather than a hot evening dress that is always too long for me and heavy with sequins. And that is exactly what I did yesterday, as my stomach and intestines launched into a few more revolts. I did feel markedly better yesterday, but I wasn’t quite all the way…

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I feel 100% better. I have a spark of energy, and I managed to eat a banana, toast with butter, and drink two cups of coffee with cream without feeling like I needed to puke. I’m sure there will be some residual crud from the virus my body seems to have vanquished, but I think I’m on the mend. It was the first time I’ve been sick in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last sickness I’ve experienced since moving to Wiesbaden. I was sick more often in Stuttgart, probably because Bill was always traveling to Africa and exposing me to exotic pathogens.

One thing I’ve learned from being sick for the past few days is that I needed a reminder that I don’t enjoy the experience of sickness. In fact, perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t want to catch COVID-19. I have no idea how I got this stomach bug, which I’m guessing is less contagious than COVID is. But being sick for the past few days has SUCKED, even though I was somewhat functional the whole time. Maybe if this bug has done anything, it’s renewed my resolve to stay healthy.

Will I watch more Love Boat today? Maybe… I was watching the second part of the Greek two-parter when Bill got home. He worked late last night and stopped by the store to get me some OTC meds and food. I might watch the second part, just to finish. I could tell I was getting better, though, because as the day wore on, I was getting more tired of the lame storylines. I may need to view something with more substance today, if I choose to watch television at all. It’s amazing the boost one gets when that initial post-sickness energy surge hits.

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book reviews

Review of Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir, by Lisa F. Smith

Once again, I’m reviewing a book I bought several years ago and just got around to reading. I purchased Lisa F. Smith’s 2016 book, Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir back in September 2016, and it was sitting in my Kindle, collecting virtual dust all this time. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it, because not only have I finally gotten what I paid for, but I think it’s a hell of a book.

The Jewish daughter of a judge and a housewife, Lisa Smith has always been an overachiever. She got straight As in school, attended Northwestern University, and got a law degree at Rutgers University. After law school, she got a job at an international law firm in New York City and worked her ass off. Interspersed between her working hours, Lisa drank… and drank… and drank. She also snorted cocaine. The cocaine would perk her up after a long evening sucking down booze. The alcohol would help numb her to the pain of untreated major depression.

Lisa had a lot of friends… drinking buddies, who would join her on her benders. She attended a lot of parties put on by the law firm where she worked. She’d wake up feeling parched and nauseated, hands shaking from alcohol withdrawal, mind racing from whatever embarrassing incident might have happened while she was under the influence. She’d have a drink in the morning to settle her nerves, then snort some blow to help her look energized when she had to give presentations at work. When she finally showed up to detox at a locked psychiatric ward at a hospital called Gracie Square, Lisa was on the verge of drinking herself to death. Her friends were supportive… or, at least most of them were at first.

The trip to the hospital is where Lisa starts her story of overcoming addiction. She’d called her doctor, panicked and realizing that she was in real trouble. Even her doctor told her she was “fine”, until Lisa told him about her habits and that she’d been shitting blood. He recommended a hospital in Hell’s Kitchen, which Lisa vetoed out of hand. Then he recommended Gracie Square, which was in a more familiar neighborhood. Lisa called and was told to show up before eleven o’clock. When she arrived, she was told that by signing herself in, she would be required to stay for 72 hours. She agreed, until she saw the “detox” floor, where there were people fighting and yelling at each other. Because she was so scared, Lisa was allowed to stay on the “Asian” floor, on which all of the patients and staff were Asians.

Then, as she finally settles in with some Librium, Lisa goes back to the beginning of her story and explains how it all began. Apparently, Lisa’s childhood helped set her up for addiction to booze and cocaine. She’d had a food addiction, the caused her to get fat. She was teased in school, and a pediatrician told her that if she didn’t stop eating, she’d be big as a house. Lisa’s breasts got huge, so when she was in college, she visited a plastic surgeon who said she would reduce them if Lisa lost thirty pounds. She lost the weight, became “hot”, and started being noticed by men. She drank for courage. She drank to feel sexy and confident, or to forget her problems. It seems to me, this was when she started drinking habits that would land her in rehab.

She runs into a fellow lawyer from Pennsylvania, also a drinker. He’s Catholic. She’s Jewish. They hook up one night after a drinking session, start dating, and get married, seemingly on a whim. The marriage is a disaster, as she hates Pittsburgh and realizes they don’t have enough in common. The depression comes crashing down, augmented by the alcoholism. She goes back to New York City and picks up where she left off… back on the booze train.

Much of Girl Walks out of a Bar consists of Lisa’s stories about being drunk, a few of which are pretty funny. I had a good laugh when she describes being two drinks in when a date turns out to mostly be a teetotaler. She proceeded to get very drunk and high, landed in a heap on the floor, and was “helped” roughly into a taxi. Naturally, she never saw that guy again. Then there was the neighbor, “Mark”, who sort of befriends her. He’s younger than she is and lives in her building. They seem to be starting a relationship of some kind– more like, he wants it and she doesn’t. She kind of kicks him out when he suggests she might need rehab, but then he turns out to be a good friend to her as she gets sober. I felt a little sorry for him, since she seemed to use him somewhat.

Lisa Smith’s writing is witty and funny. She uses a lot of profanity, which some readers like and some don’t. Personally, I like a few good cuss words, especially when they’re liberally sprinkled in funny stories. My one complaint about this book is the way it wraps up. The author doesn’t share much about her journey to sobriety or her struggles staying sober. She finishes detoxing and makes it clear that she won’t be attending a 28 day residential treatment due to her work commitments and the lies she told to get a few days off for detox. Next thing you know, she’s going to A.A. meetings and getting her 90 day chip. She doesn’t share much about how she managed to fight temptation. Her writing about her sobriety is surprisingly less juicy than her writing about being a drunk and a cokehead, which makes the book seem off balance.

However… I still enjoyed reading Smith’s story, mainly because she seemed like someone I would enjoy knowing. She’s smart, funny, and very candid. Also… reading her story made me feel somewhat better about my own drinking habits. She was way worse than I’ve ever been… Basically, she spent ten solid years drunk every single day. It’s amazing that she was able to function, let alone work as a high powered corporate lawyer.

I have read better books about people with drinking problems. The late Caroline Knapp’s book, Drinking: A Love Story comes to mind. I also read Augusten Burrough’s book, Dry, which was one of those books that made me feel a wide range of emotions– from amusement to sadness. I think Girl Walks out of a Bar could have been better than it is. However, I’m glad I read Lisa Smith’s story, because ultimately, it’s a success story. It’s a fairly easy read that kept me engaged. If I were rating it on a scale of one to five, I think I’d give this book four stars. Had she expanded her story after she got sober– told us more about the struggle to stay away from booze and drugs, I could see giving her that fifth star.

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