Everyone Wants To Beat Daniel-san’s Ass

March 10, 2013

kkEverytime I channel surf the past few weeks, there’s Ralph Macchio sulking, being oblivious or – most often – getting his ass kicked by every living soul whose path he crosses in one of the three Karate Kid flicks.

I was roughly the age of high school student and social pariah Daniel-san, the character Macchio was playing, when The Karate Kid opened in theaters in the summer of 1984.

(Macchio was, at the time, already in his forties)

The movie was, as I recall, an unexpected hit.

I saw it, as did most of my friends, at the old theater in our hometown. It was slight but entertaining and, of course, we all dug Mr. Miyagi who came from another world and possessed wisdom dispensed in riddles.

But Daniel-san…

It’s tough to be the new kid in town, but, having had three decades to reflect on the situation, I have to wonder if Mrs. LaRusso moved him three-thousand miles from New Jersey to Southern California to escape the shame of having an offspring whose mere presence instilled instant hostility and hatred in those around him.

(it couldn’t have been simply the lure of a secretarial job)

And then, she comes to find that there is no East Coast bias when it came to wanting to open a can of whoop-ass on the fruit of her loins.

Yes, you could have put Daniel LaRusso in a room with Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Ghandi, and the peace-loving threesome would have reduced Daniel-san to a pulpy heap identifiable only by dental records.

In truth, not only were Daniel-san and I roughly the same age in 1984, his attire led me to believe that he had been raiding my closet. I should have identified with the kid I was seeing on the screen.

I didn’t.

No one did.

The only people that seemed to dig Daniel-san were Elisabeth Shue and my girlfriend at the time.

(and though the girlfriend was googly moogly for Macchio, her five-year old brother – who loved The Karate Kid – also wanted to kick his ass)

And what about Elisabeth Shue’s interest in this human piñata?

She had money, she was a cheerleader, she was a fetching blonde whose student body was seemingly popular with the entire student body…

…and she would later graduate from Harvard and win an Academy Award nomination.

And she was smitten with Daniel-san.

It was inexplicable.

But, when I come across The Karate Kid on cable, I pause. I watch for the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi, but I also watch because there’s something about watching Daniel-san receive a beating that restores order to the universe.

The Karate Kid also served as an introduction for most of America to Bananarama, whose Cruel Summer appeared briefly in the movie and became a hit with its inclusion on the soundtrack.

Here are four songs from Bananarama…

Bananarama – He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’

Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)
from Deep Sea Skiving (1983)

My buddy Beej brought a lot of new music to us via his uncle, a college professor who lived in the city. So, we knew of Tears For Fears, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and Echo & The Bunnymen well before we might have heard them on the radio.

Bananarama was another one. The trio’s Deep Sea Skiving might not have been more than a cult hit in the States, but I did hear He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ and Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) often when 97X went on the air in autumn of 1983.

The former was a cover of a minor hit by Motown girl group The Velvelettes and the breezy, tropical vibe of the song was augmented by a guest appearance by Fun Boy Three, a trio comprised of former members of UK ska group The Specials.

Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) was another cover but of a far better-known song which had reached #1 in 1969 as performed by the studio band Steam.

Bananarama – Cruel Summer

Bananarama – The Wild Life
from Bananrama (1984)

Bananarama’s self-titled second album actually arrived in the spring of 1984 and my buddy Beej was again tuned in, raving about Robert De Niro’s Waiting… which he had discovered via the song’s video being played on the fledgling Night Tracks on WTBS.

By the time we returned to school that autumn, the loping Cruel Summer had become Banarama’s US breakthrough hit, so the trio might have been the only people on the face that didn’t wish to do great violence to Ralph Macchio.

That autumn, Bananarama provided the title track for Cameron Crowe’s The Wild Life, a movie that I don’t even recall being in theaters. The song was belatedly added to the US version of Bananarama and, though stylistically in the vein of Cruel Summer, The Wild Life failed to replicate the group’s prior soundtrack success.

I totally dug those first two Bananarama records. Deep Sea Skiving was a lot of fun, the three girls were cute as buttons, and it’s still the only Bananarama I need to own.

Two years later, Bananarama fell into the clutches of producers Stock Aitken Waterman, scored a mammoth hit with yet another cover, Venus, and I was out.

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Who Am I Gonna Call? Maybe Ray Parker, Jr.*

October 17, 2012

poltergeistMaybe it’s the first real autumn chill or that Halloween is a couple weeks away, but I opted to throw Poltergeist into the DVD player the other night.

It’s a good flick. It was an event during the summer of ’84 and it still holds up. The members of the aggrieved household were totally believable to me. They looked, behaved, and interacted like a family that might have lived in the subdivision where I grew up.

The father in Poltergeist, Craig T. Nelson, could have been a patriarch in our neighborhood. His celluloid spouse, JoBeth Williams, resembled a neighbor’s mom who liked to get some sun.

(nothing brought a halt to a pick-up baseball game like Mrs. Cheeseburger – as she had been dubbed – laying out in a bikini)

But there was someone else who looked familiar to me when I saw Poltergeist in the theater the summer of its release. It was one of the parapsychologists who arrive to check things out.

I kept thinking, cool, it’s Ray Parker, Jr.

(it’s not, but it’s fun to pretend it is)

It would have made sense, though. Parker was also spending that summer singing the theme from Ghostbusters, so he had insight into the paranormal.

But, he had also been all over radio two summers before with The Other Woman. The protagonist in that song proved to be quite the scoundrel. Ray might be too focused on trying to hook up with JoBeth Williams or that diminutive medium (“This house is clean”) to perform his duties as a parapsychologist.

However, he did play guitar in Stevie Wonder’s band while still in his teens as well as on the Talking Book and Innervisions albums during Stevie’s heyday. And I quite liked a number of his songs that were staples on radio during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

So, if ever a need arose to rid a home of supernatural antics, I might be inclined to call Ray – have him play a few songs and tell a few stories (he also worked with acts like The Temptations, The Spinners, Aretha, Herbie Hancock…even The Carpenters).

It might be cool.

(so long as he doesn’t play Ghostbusters or leer at Paloma)

Here are four Ray Parker Jr. songs that I still dig…

Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio- That Old Song
from A Woman Needs Love (1981)

Parker had a couple hits – Jack & Jill and You Can’t Change That – with Raydio which I really liked and was surprised I didn’t own.

That Old Song, though, is smooth, breezy and wistful.

Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio- A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)
from A Woman Needs Love (1981)

Ray gives relationship advice. Of course, considering the subject matter of some of his later hits, it might be better to let him rid your house of malevolent spirits rather than act as your relationship guru.

Ray Parker, Jr. – The Other Woman
from The Other Woman (1982)

Leaving his band Raydio behind, Ray went solo in 1982 with The Other Woman and the funky, guitar-driven title track was all over the radio that summer.

Ray Parker, Jr. – Bad Boy
from Greatest Hits (1982)

Bad Boy wasn’t one of Ray’s biggest hits and, truth be told, I didn’t pay it much mind at the time. But it has stuck with me all these years because one of my friends in high school never tired of it. If there was a jukebox and Bad Boy was on it, he’d play it.

Repeatedly.

It’s not a bad song, though – kind of a lighter follow-up to The Other Woman.


“I Don’t Think I Was Speeding, Officer, Was I Weaving Or Something?”

March 7, 2012

Paloma shook her head at the commercial which promised three nights airing National Lampoon’s Vacation to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Clark Griswald’s trek to California.

She knew that I – having not seen it in glorious HD – would be unable to resist the sirens’ song.

She has often heard me echo the query of Imogene Coca’s deranged Aunt Edna – “Am I gonna eat? Or am I gonna starve to death?” and is good natured enough to have not brained me.

There was a time that I could have recited damned near every line of dialogue from Vacation as could most of my buddies. Chevy Chase had been one of our favorites in Caddyshack a few years earlier but, in that movie, he had been a memorable charcter in a large ensemble.

In Vacation, he was The Man, an outlaw on the road, skinny-dippin’ with Christie Brinkley, who had brightened our winter days for several years in the early ’80s in Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue.

(Clark Griswald could have been in the Olympics, man)

If lab animals were subjected to as many viewings of one movie as my buddies and I had watched Vacation, PETA would rightfully raise a ruckus.

It was not difficult to exhaust the possibilities for fun in our small town before the late news aired. At that point, there wasn’t much to do other than acts of vandalism involving produce and/or fireworks.

(it was a town of three thousand people in the middle of a lot of corn in the Midwest)

Often, a bunch of us would end up encamped in Kirk The Pyro’s den watching Vacation on late-night cable or VHS.

(his family had a spacious house and cable and VCR before most of us did)

We were beginning to get our driver’s licenses – Vacation had been in theaters the summer we took Driver’s Ed – and, like Chevy, we yearned for the open road and dipping skinnies with Christie Brinkley.

The farthest we usually got was Indianapolis or, more often, Cincinnati and there were no “pool waitress” supermodels frolicking in the coin fountain at the mall.

But we did make good use of numerous quotes – travel-related or not – from the movie and, at some point, usually when it was suggested that we call it a night and head home, someone would rally the troops with words of wisdom from Chevy.

(the more delicate amongst you might want to cover your eyes)

“I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamned smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of you’re assholes!”

Here are four songs from the soundtrack…

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from Words & Music: A Retrospective (1992)

I can’t hear Holiday Road and not want to cruise through a desert of the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

The Ramones – Blitzkreig Bop
from Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: The Anthology (1999)

Not long ago, a client was giving me his last name. “Ramone,” he said. “Like the band. Do you know who I’m talking about?”

He was surprised and duly impressed as I explained that I not only knew his reference, but that Paloma has a framed poster autographed by Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky hanging in our treehouse.

The Pointer Sisters – I’m So Excited
from Greatest Hits (1989)

During the first few years of the ’80s, when I was really listening to the radio for the first time, The Pointer Sisters were inescapable. A lot of those hits still charm me when I hear them on shuffle.

But sometimes, the manic I’m So Excited is just a bit too perky.

Vangelis – Titles
from Chariots Of Fire (1982)

As part of the last week of school in eighth grade, our class took a trip to a multi-plex in Cincinnati to see Chariots Of Fire. The movie might have just won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but a slow-moving, British, period piece on distance running and religion surprisingly proved to be a buzzkill for us kids.

(I’ve meant to watch it again as an adult but…)

Vacation arrived just a year after Chariots Of Fire, so the spoof of Chariots Of Fire hadn’t yet become cliche.