Whew, just in time! Bet you thought I wouldn't make the Thanksgiving deadline, huh? Well, to be honest, doing another eighty-page Macy's Parade review wasn't one of my most desired things to do during this busy time of year, but considering what we're about to see, how could I not? This time around, we'll be looking at highlights from both the 1985 and 1986 Thanksgiving Day Parade -- they were similar for the most part, albeit with much different weather. In '86, it was a clear, beautiful day. In '85, it was raining, cold, shitty, and everyone who participated was either hidden under an umbrella or soaking wet and miserable. And that's entertainment.
I won't go through the big brouhaha intro as seen in the '84 parade review, but the thoughts still ring true -- if you enjoy reliving the past, there's just nothing better than an old Macy's Parade. What will we see this time around? Oh boy. How about two years worth of "Masters of the Universe" floats, complete with Puffy Bodysuit He-Man and enough fog machines to hide Guam? How about a bunch of freaks attempting to set Pat Sajak on fire? A group of clowns publicly humiliating Robert Vaughn? Or, perhaps best of all, how about a look at Phyllis Diller drunk off her ass? You'll see all of this, and much more! Muchos more!
Couple of notes: similar to the last review, this one is loaded with video clips. Tons of 'em. They're all in Windows Media format, and though the video quality is kinda crappy compared to last time, the sound sync is much better. Trust me, I did everything humanly possible (or at least, possible for someone as stupid as me) to make these clips as good as possible -- so if you happen across a few that look particularly awful, don't think it's because I didn't try. I tried. A lot. Since I've got my back to the wall and I'm trying to get this review up before the holiday, I've condensed it a bit -- eight pages this time around, but it's all of the good stuff. The actual parade review spans across the first six pages, with the final two reserved for a massive look at the commercial spots that aired during both parades -- with downloads for each ad!
Hope you enjoy this very strange trip back in time -- thanks to everyone who donated for the last review. X-E ate through 100 gigs of bandwidth during its first day online. That's fairly considerable for this site, and certainly costs money. If you like what you see here and appreciate the effort and cash it takes to make all of these videos available for everyone, feel free to drop me some cash by clicking on the Paypal box down below. Your contributions are met with many smiles from yours truly. The lengths one will go to just to show the world a clip of He-Man doing battle with a guy with arms that are twenty feet long.
Enjoy the show!
Okay, let's kick it off with the hosts from the '85 parade. Pat Sajak's back, and obviously, I was right about his seething hatred for 1984 co-host, Stepfanie Kramer. Pat doesn't want to be shown up again, so he's handpicked two celebrities who are sure to disappoint. Your first co-host is Phylicia Rashad, but of course, she's best known as "Claire" from "The Cosby Show." I actually like her quite a bit, but she seemed less than enthusiastic about this project. Maybe it was the rain, I don't know. Her appearances were decidedly sporadic, and even though she nailed a song number atop the famous parade "Doodlebug," Phylicia was pretty much a nonfactor otherwise. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since she's teamed up with Bert Convy -- a man who should never be allowed to host anything, ever again. I don't mean to offend any of his fans, but this guy was just brutal. I don't know how the scripts for these parades work, but if scripts exist, he certainly didn't follow 'em. Bert just stumbles through every segment, either misidentifying what's on the screen or babbling on about the plastic bags covering his feet for warmth. Not kidding -- every time Bert is on the screen, he brings up the God damned feet baggies. Phylicia quickly realizes that she's been had; she was a sacrificial lamb meant to offset Bert Convy's poor performance by looking pretty. It doesn't work.
In fact, the only person who could've been happy with these new co-hosts was Pat Sajak. He was finally free to let his star shine. Despite arguments that he could forever carry the ol' parade show himself, the suits apparently felt differently. When it came time for the 1986 parade, Phylicia and Baggie Man were canned. Pat was forced to once again deal with the curly haired ham queen who ruined his Thanksgiving in 1984 -- Stepfanie Kramer returned.
This is only speculation, but Stepfanie must've done something to really piss off the producers in '84. Even though she returned two years later, a lot of things had changed. For one, she wasn't allowed anywhere near Sajak, and if you think the man himself didn't have this specifically written into his contract, you're just kidding yourselves. Kramer is stationed literally miles away from Pat, and until the final moments of the parade, the two only converse through the sanctity of a split-screen so Pat wouldn't have to actually see her face. The changes didn't end there, though.
Aside from being kept far away from the game show host who passionately despised her, Stepfanie was also dealt some pretty crappy cards in the big "segment deal." Pat got to call the action for all of the good stuff, while Stepf was restricted to the kind of skits that had America cursing Thanksgiving in unison. I really wonder what she was being punished for -- what did this poor girl do in 1984 to make her so hated? It can't just be the hair.
If you think I'm kidding, I'm not. Take a look at three random tasks delegated to Ms. Kramer...
Okay, how do I explain this one? In a clear effort by the producers to embarrass Stepf, she's forced to interview a bunch of random spectators wearing half-assed bee costumes. For absolutely no reason whatsoever. In the clip, you'll see Stepf visually and audibly become disenfranchised with being alive, alternating between depressive sighs and general disinterest. The bee people just sit there doing nothing, offering nothing, saying nothing, and having no justification for being on television aside from a few pairs of wacky novelty bee antennas. Awful. Stepf's just being thrown to the lions here -- she has absolutely nothing to talk about; a fact that's well illustrated when she points out that all of the buzzing "bee" sound effects are coming from NBC's production team and not the chubby grandparents watching the show. It's really terrible, but for Stepf, it's only going to get worse from here.
Mere minutes later, Stepf's charged with interviewing one of the parade's celebrity guests, Ed Begley, Jr. Holy crap, he looks young. So, celebrity guest -- you'd think this would run pretty smooth, right? Should be a cakewalk compared to the old bastard bees, right? Nope.
At first, Stepf seems excited. She introduces Ed with zest and vigor, and it isn't until her interviewee speaks that she realizes that, once again, she's being fucked with by the producers. In the clip, you'll see Ed Begley Jr., his mind in a barrage of loosely organized but still very much spoken aloud thoughts, ranging from the parade to symphonies to marching bands to hair to cars to televisions to the planet Mercury. Well, it's not that bad, but it's close. Stepf stands around trying her best to look coherently interested, but really, it's an impossible task. Ed drones on literally for a full sixty seconds; the monologue ends only after Kramer abruptly hands him off to one of high school band members for a chat. And yet, for Stepf, it still manages to get worse.
Now this...this was something else. The '86 parade's obvious highlight for me was the He-Man float, but Phyllis Diller was a very close second. Why? BECAUSE SHE IS ABSOLUTELY HAMMERED. I swear to Christ, she is positively drunk beyond all comprehension. Dressed as Mother Goose for an alarming appearance later in the parade, Diller makes a quick stop to discuss various things with Stepf. Annnnd how...
At first, things seem okay. Things always seemed okay at first with these parade skits. Stepf is starting to show signs of worry and fatigue even in these early segments, because she's already been to Hell and back with the bees and the Begleys. Would Phyllis Diller complete the trifecta? Yup. As soon as she's allowed to speak, Diller presents her "escort" for the day -- a rubber chicken. Now this may have very well been part of the script, but as you'll see in the clip, Diller loves to ad lib. In fact, there's only one thing she loves to do more than improv -- cackle like a drunk psycho creature from Mars. Everything that pours from Diller's lips trails off and reeks of whiskey. Even when Stepf asks her a direct, simple question, Diller opts to reply with various bits of insanity about "Jack & Jill" and "Humpty Dumpty," replacing her usual sharp wit with something far more frightening. The best part? As Diller's speech grows more erratic, a fucking ambulance slowly passes behind them, sirens blaring and all. At the end of the clip, after Stepf throws it back to Pat, watch the glee on his face as his masterful revenge plot comes to fruition.
Oh, and if you think I'm overstating things -- don't worry. There's another Diller clip coming up in this review, and there's no way you won't believe she was off drugged up off her ass after seeing it.
Also from '86 was a song and dance number from Nell Carter, flanked by a lot of kids and even more balloons. I know there probably aren't many fans of the late dynamo who read this site, but I felt like I should include it. Plus, this giant woman put on quite a show for the crowd, running and hopping around as if she was a scant 200 pounds. Having seen most of the parades from the past twenty years, a lot of these song numbers fall completely flat. You remember Cliff Claven's '84 appearance, right? Nell's did her job and did it well. Give her a break.
Moving away from the crap, here's something I found interesting. This one's from '85. Anyone out there remember "Lotsa-Leggs?" Those colorful caterpillar dolls with...well, lots and lots of legs? I had tons of them as a kid, though most were attained through sideshow games in Wildwood, New Jersey. I never realized that they were an "official" toy series until recent years, and was even more shocked to see one of the beasts appear in the parade.
Here's what's interesting -- the 1985 parade was pretty sad for the most part. The bad weather both diluted and shut up the crowd, so most of the acts played to half an audience who weren't going to drop their umbrellas to cheer for anyone. You had to feel bad for some of the performers -- they'd finish up their shit, and there wouldn't be a peep from the crowd. Just total silence, soaking wet total silence. This wasn't the case with Lotsa-Leggs. I can't explain why, but the crowd just went absolutely batshit nuts when this pink caterpillar strolled into view. You'll hear it in the clip -- the crowd loves the thing. Still, Lotsa-Leggs' moment of triumph was yet to come...
Out of nowhere, the caterpillar disassembles into smaller segments, each with a face. Just as its about to bask in the glory of a successful grand finale, Stupid Sajak cut the skit off and moves on to something far less interesting. That poor caterpillar. Think of all those people inside! Do you have any idea how hard it must be to break apart in a set pattern, in the rain, on one take, with hundred-pound pink bug costumes on? Sajak could've at least let them get their final cheers before shitting all over poor Lotsa-Leggs. I can understand the need to grill Stepfanie, but what has this thing ever done to anyone?
Saturday Night Live's Victory Jackson was one of the guests in 1986, and easily the most wasted. She made two quick appearances -- the second is barely worth mentioning, and even if the first one's worth mentioning, it's awfully dumb. Those with only a passing memory of the parades might've forgotten the horde of costumed characters who lug the giant balloons down the streets. For instance, Garfield's balloon is handled by 50,000 poor cold assholes in Garfield costumes. In an effort to give these folks a little thanks (they're unpaid volunteers), Victoria's mission is to interview one of 'em. Drumroll.
The first question: "Is it fun?"
The second question: "How many people does it take to hold it down?"
The third question: "How long does it take to fill it up with helium?"
The fourth question: Fucked if I know. Stepf interrupts the flailing segment and throws it back to Pat.
My God, you have to pity that guy in the suit. You'll see it in the clip -- he gets like ten seconds to speak, and even so, he's answering the worst questions ever. He doesn't get to say hello to his family, doesn't get to mention the 49,999 other Garfield handlers -- nothing. Victoria, for her part, couldn't seem less interested in being a part of this. Can you imagine that guy, before the parade, making sure all of his loved ones were going to be watching? Not since Sara Goldfarb's wonderment with being on television have the end results so poorly matched up with the anticipation.
I can just see it. After that parade, he put the costume in a box, threw it under his bed, and didn't look at it again until a few years ago, after being tipped off about the whole "eBay craze." Stepfanie Kramer, Victoria Jackson, and NBC Studios all conspired to crush the dreams, hopes and pride of the very men who kept their premiere balloon from flying away and crashing into an old folks' home somewhere in Brooklyn. This is the thanks he gets? Ten seconds with a totally distracted Victoria Jackson? It's like passing on the corvette for Curtain #3 and getting a year's supply of soup. I'm not sure how, but it's just like that.
1985 was a happier year for Garfield -- here's a clip of his starring appearance, complete with zany feline music and the kind of introduction from Pat Sajak that'd have you thinking God himself was about to stroll down 34th Street.
ON THE NEXT PAGE: Rainbow Brite, the Monopoly Train, Popeye & Olive Oyl, Alvin and the Chipmunks (start worrying), Barbie and the Rockers, Robot Man (with New Edition?), and Princess Blanche Deveraux...