1984 - a great year for technology, a piss poor year for advertising.
Every year around this time, we pause and reflect upon the life of a man who changed the face of this country forever. And while there are still some part of the nation that do not pay proper homage to the great and important work this man did, much of the country takes a day to celebrate the incredible deeds of this amazing individual. I'm talking, of course, about me. Today is my birthday, although the people at the calendar companies accidentally put it down as being tomorrow and spelled my name wrong. Hell, my name doesn't even have a "Jr." in it! Oh well, let's not let that put a damper on the festivities. Today I hit the big 2-0, which is a lot like twenty, only bigger, and more spaced out. It's hard to believe that two whole decades have passed since I casually sauntered out of my mother's womb, wearing a dashing smoking jacket and balancing a fine cuban cigar between my fingers. My mother tells the story slightly differently, but you have to understand, she wasn't exactly focused. You see, she was giving birth at the time. But trust me, I arrived easily, suavely, and with a classy smile. It was delivering the baby grand piano I used to play along with my hit lounge act that hurt. With my arrival, 1984 looked to be a good year. And that it was! Transformers, or "Super God Robot Force," as it was known to the Japanese, hit the airwaves. "Children of the Corn" made us shriek. "Breakin'" made us dance. "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo" made us stop dancing and bow down to the greatest sequel title of all time, while simultaneously wondering how a movie and its sequel could possibly come out in the same year. "Amadeus" made us appreciate Mozart all the more, while somehow appreciating Salieri even less. "Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter" taught us that the word "final" is very flexible. "The Karate Kid" made Ralph Macchio a star. It was the year when Moscow appeared on the Hudson, the Muppets took Manhattan, and a young Johnny Depp made his debut in the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street." And things probably happened other than TV and movies, too, although one can never be sure. I think there was something about Reagan getting re-elected. I don't know. I had other things on my mind, like booking shows in Vegas.
And now here I am, twenty years later, writing for a website. I'd say I've moved up in the world. By now you're probably wondering, "Greasnin, just how are you commemorating your birthday, and what can I do to help? Monetarily, that is." Well, that's sweet of you, but you just put your wallet and Visa platinum cards away. My birthday present came early this year, and since you seemed so doggone interested, I'm going to tell you all about it!
I stopped for the night at the Hotel California. They had just restocked their wine cellar. I noted the irony, then moved on to a better joke.
As soon as I walked in the front door of my home on the first day of winter break, my parents spontaneously surprised me with the best birthday gift a guy could ask for - a trip out of this frozen hellhole we call Massachusetts to spend a week with my brother out in fabulous Los Angeles! After spontaneously surprising me with that gift, we then spontaneously called my brother to tell him I was coming, then spontaneously got online and tried to find a flight out, then spontaneously called my brother again to tell him the time of the flight, then spontaneously searched for a return flight, then spontaneously called my brother again to tell him that, then spontaneously changed the day of the return flight, then spontaneously called my brother again to update him, then spontaneously changed the time of the flight, but spontaneously decided not to call my brother to tell him, because we spontaneously decided that he'd figure it out. Also because he was flying out to the East Coast the next day to spend a week and a half with us, and we spontaneously remembered we didn't need to be making all those long distance calls.
Luckily, I was not the droid they were looking for.
I was so excited. I had only been to California once before, and that was when I was three, so I can't say I remembered it too clearly. Finally, only three days after my brother left, I packed my bags and boarded the bus that would take me to the airport. It had been a few years since I had last flown, and since 9/11, the place had changed. After initially being impressed by the fancy new do-it-yourself electronic ticket counter, I was then subjected to every possible search known to man, short of my precious bodily cavities. My bag had to be searched before I could even get it X-rayed, which didn't make much sense to me. I was stopped at the metal detector, then given the full treatment. Jacket off, shoes off, socks off, feet tickled, belt opened, fly down, boxers mocked, shirt pressed, hat stomped on - the works. The they took every article of clothing that they had me remove and shoved them all into one little bin and put that through the X-ray scanner. As if patting me down, having me strip, and running the metal detector over each article of clothing wasn't enough. I guess they had to make sure there wasn't a secret compartment built into the 2/16ths of an inch thickness of my belt where I was storing some sort of massive thermonuclear device. Luckily, it was a low traffic day at the airport, and despite all the searches and stops, I was still at my gate with in under half an hour. I had plenty of time to kill before my flight, so I took a look through some of the terminal's many shops, including the newsstand, the gourmet candy shop, the easily concealable weapons boutique, and the turban haberdasher.
Finally, I got on my plane. I could tell the flight wouldn't be full, but a middle-aged woman ended up sitting right next to me. She stayed there for precisely forty seconds before getting up and switching seats. In that time, we never said a word to one another, but I guess I managed to offend her somehow. I was pretty sure I had showered that morning, so I figured it wasn't the stench. Silly me! It wasn't until halfway through the cross-country flight when I went to the bathroom that I realized I had forgotten to wash the magic marker swastika I used to keep people from sitting next to me on the bus off my forehead! What a buffoon! I thought about scrubbing it off right then and there, but then I thought, hey, I've got an entire row to myself on a six hour flight. Why risk it? I made a mental note to wash it off when I got to LA. Before I knew it, we were making our nighttime descent over the LA skyline. Looking out over the sea of glowing buildings, I was struck by the thought of just how much a guy could do with all of that neon. The answer, of course, is nothing. Curse those dratted noble gasses! A few minutes later, I found myself setting foot in the City of Lights.... I mean, the City of Brotherly Love... that is, the Windy City... uh, The City That Never Sleeps.... Beantown II. Yeah, that's the ticket. And as I headed down to the baggage claim, one initial impression of LA cemented itself in my mind: this city smells vaguely like onion dip.
There's nothing quite as magical as the LA skyline at night. Oh, except magic.
My brother met me at the baggage claim, and we headed out to the parking lot. That was when the first sign of trouble happened. It's just my luck, too. Twelve minutes in a new state, and already there's a sign of trouble. As we got into the elevator, the door closed on me a lot quicker than a good elevator door should. Also unlike a good elevator door, it did not open when it hit me, nor could I force it open. In fact, the door seemed to still be quite set on closing, even if it meant crushing me into powder, which, as an LA resident, it would then stick up its nose. My brother had to hit the "door open" button six or seven times before the door finally caved to peer pressure and let me slip through. We got in the car, then sat in line for forty-five minutes to get out of the parking lot, which is how I learned something about LA drivers: none of you know how to merge. I'm from Massachusetts. I should not be giving driving tips. Look, it's simple. One person goes, then another person gets to join the line. It's a slow process, I know, but it keeps things moving and it's equitable for everyone. You let somebody in front of you, then you go, then the person behind you lets someone in front of them, then they go. It's that easy. If I had a nickel for every riced-out minivan full of AZNs who would have happily done thousands of dollars of damage to their own vehicle as long as they didn't let us merge in turn, I wouldn't have enough nickels to pay for the damage, but I'd be close. Letting people merge - it's instant karma. Learn it, live it, love it. When we finally got out of the parking lot, the clear, starry skies with the massive full moon that I had seen during my descent were gone, obscured by a bizarre, thick fog. My brother assured me he had never seen anything like it. Fog in LA? What the hell? Between the elevator on the fritz and the weather systems going berserk, one thing was clear: my arrival in Los Angeles signaled the apocalypse. Dun dun dun!
Oh, and when we got to my brother's apartment, the toilet overflowed even though there was no clog! DUN DUN DUN!
1 out of 3 black and white balloon parties are held at ARCO.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. As we drove back to my brother's place from the airport, I gazed wide-eyed at the palm trees and other lush, verdant vegetation. At that precise moment, it was all of four degrees back in Boston. I would have been happy with a space heater, but palm trees? Absolutely mindblowing. As I looked up at those telltale fans of huge leaves, I noticed a peculiar billboard. It read something like the following: "1 out of 3 child actors gets gas at ARCO." For those of you who aren't familiar with Arco, it's the low-end gas station, like Getty, or Crazy Al's Gas in "Back Woods." This sign struck me as odd. On the one hand, it was very telling of the culture differences between Boston and LA. A similar billboard back in Boston might say something about Red Sox fans or drunken Irishmen. Here, the ad wizards at Arco were poking fun at the glitzy Hollywood culture by advertising that child stars get their gas at Arco. But what struck me as odd was the "1 out of 3" proportion. Usually, advertisers like to show off their positive statistics. You see commercials that say, "Nine out of ten dentists recommend Crest!" But you usually don't see the follow-up commercial, "One out of ten dentists recommends Colgate!" Why would you want to advertise that two thirds of a demographic shops elsewhere? I would think that serving the majority of child stars would be a big draw, because then people start thinking, "Hey, if I go to Arco, maybe I'll see someone famous!" I figured that the odd statistic was probably due to the fact that a lot of child actors can't drive, and then there are the child actors who can't afford gas. But it's not child actor-specific. Apparently this is Arco's latest billboard campaign. I saw another billboard later on that said, "1 out of 3 bodybuilders gets gas at ARCO." Again, it's playing with the Hollywood stereotypes, and again, it's quoting a negative statistic. This brought me to the conclusion that people in LA are bad at math. Perhaps this is because the Asian community is too busy not letting people merge to bring up the test scores. I don't know. Whatever the case, I ended up at an Arco twice in six days, so I guess the ad campaign worked after all.
My story is just beginning, but frankly I'm tired of telling it right now. Be sure to check in next week to find out what sort of crazy adventures I got into. Next week's exciting continuation of "Greasnin Goes to California" will include appearances by Alicia Silverstone, Tony Shaloub, and from Family Ties Meredith Baxter Birney, as well as numerous other attempts by the buildings of Los Angeles to kill me. See you next week! Or, as they say in California, see you next week!
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