Well, we covered the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades from 1984-1986 last year -- let's try to get at least one more out of the way this year. If you're unfamiliar with these events, a refresher: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began its annual crawl through New York City in the late 1400s, truly an admirable feat as there was neither a New York City or a Thanksgiving back then. In more recent times it's been a staple of the holiday, in fact the third best part of it, just behind eating giant birds and getting off from work or school. A figurative parade of stars in a literal parade down streets, it's always packed with whomever the people of that year consider the hottest new acts or the true classics of their time. Suffice to say, it's changed quite a bit from what we're about to see in the 1987 edition, when the smokiest of the smokin' were a group of singing raisins with arms, when Baby Shamu was still a baby, and most importantly, when Clifton Davis of hit TV series Amen could snatch ten minutes of face time in a Macy's Parade without first paying off God himself. You can tell a lot about a year of this past century by what went on at its Macy's Parade.
You will see many things in this review, many many things, and yet, I still can't shake the feeling that it's somehow abridged. An unbelievable amount of shit happens, and I'll do my best to cover the highlights. On the whole, when compared to the other parades from its decade, the 1987 version was kinda flat, diluted, hosted by Mary Hart, boring. Of course, it's the only Macy's Parade I've ever seen live, on what was clearly the coldest day in the past six thousand years, on streets so crowded you'd swear Elvis was walking down the street, dug up dead and brought back to life, never looking at anyone directly, but repeatedly saying, "it's true, baby." Didn't have much fun, couldn't see anything, and for the life of me, I couldn't believe I was persuaded to stand in public wearing a snow white "C.O.R.V.E.T.T.E." jacket with gray trim. I sucked right along with that parade. And the jacket never explained what the acronym stood for.
Keep an eye out for Mr. Cranberry, who appears throughout the review as a crude, half-inch graphic of a cranberry with coal eyes and the devil's smile. Whenever you see him, you get to download something. The following pages are littered with so many video clips that I must now beg you to support my diamond habit by donating through Paypal, that is, if you plan on downloading everything so many times that you'll personally account for 80% of the bandwidth bill come December. You have taken an online survey, told the world about yourself, and the automated magician has informed you of your totem old school cartoon character: Greedy Smurf. Good going. Even Farmer had more fans. The first two pages cover the parade in all of its splendid glory, while the final pages take a look at many of the commercials that aired during the parade, at least two dozen of which promoting Isotoner gloves in Santa red with Santa white fur trim. Oh, oh oh oh oh oh...you thought the artichoke would be the opus of your Thanksgiving season?
By 1987, former "regular" hosts like Pat Sajak were finally shuffled out of rotation for good by the likes of such people-pleasers as Mary Hart, who paints Jimmy a megaphone every Christmas even though he's Jewish, and Willard Scott, a person adored by everyone on the planet, even in tough neighborhoods. They make a decent team, in part because Willard jokingly references some heated crush for Mary so many times that you know there had to be some truth to it, and soon, so did she: by the end of the parade, Mary was appearing on-camera in a Groucho disguise, trying to convince Willard that she was special guest host Count Bondero. Willard also seizes the opportunity to make many self-effacing jokes about his weight, sometimes after an obvious lead-in, other times completely out of nowhere. You never know when he'll strike with another fat joke, but after the second hour, I found that saying "NOW!" at one-minute intervals proved pretty accurate.
Willard is also a man of many hats, as in, he wears a different hat every time he appears onscreen. At first, the hats are basically normal. They're not hats you'd buy, but they're hats you'd try on whenever out with some giddy friends and a Polaroid camera. Soon, Willard plows through the entire run of basically normal hats, forced to wear things like garbage bags and plastic prop seagulls just to keep the gag going. Pestilent but not without purpose, Willard's hilarious hat gag is the thread that binds the many unrelated events and celebrity appearance of this, the 61st annual Macy's Thanksgiving Dablah blah blah.
The balloons are the most iconic items in the parade, with certain characters having appeared in Macy's Parades for decades. Others show up seemingly without rhyme or reason, but it's usually because the characters belong to one of the television sponsors. In this case, it's the very first appearance of one of my guilty favorites, the Snuggle Bear balloon. Star of fabric softener commercials and all around cute little bastard, I spent my youth obsessed with the idea that Snuggle Bear was, in fact, real. I knew it wasn't possible -- pegged him more for some kind of android super bear robot in its beta testing stage -- but that didn't stop me from keeping a small portion of my bed free from toys and chip crumbs in preparation to the day that he finally came to me. The giant balloon features Snuggle Bear in a Christmas stocking, with uncharacteristic blood red eyes that did more to make children cry than cackle with drooling admiration.
I've watched many of the old Macy's Parades over the past year or so, and on occasion, there's a little moment that really stabs you in the heart. For example, this. Willard Scott, jovial as always, is charged with interviewing two of the oldest onlookers in the city -- two grandmothers, the eldest being 102 years old, not to mention from Russia. So Willard's interviewing her, and of course, since she's 102 and all, her answers aren't exactly razor sharp. The poor old woman could barely decipher whatever the hell Willard was trying to ask her, but before you blame it on senility, note that I too couldn't figure out what the fuck he was talking about. Regardless, I watched the skit with a cynical tongue, and yeah, I might've chuckled. Soon afterwards, I realized that the lady has to be dead by now, a notion that filled my being with such tremendous remorse and guilt that I kissed everyone in town over 60. It was really gross.
One of the easiest roads to looking like an idiot is signing on to host a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's totally not their fault, but virtually every host I've seen has been forced to do some completely unwinnable interview or comedy sketch, where only at their very best could they survive with their careers intact. Shown above is Mary Hart, in the unenviable position of interviewing a bunch of Macy's employees dressed as clowns. Might not sound too bad, but the interview is played straight, with the people acting just as they would if they weren't dressed up like clowns. Mary hops from clown to clown, sinking further and further into a pile of shit so deep that she can't possibly resurface, and finally, she cracks while chatting with Clown #37. Here's a genuine transcript, and you can download the clip for proof...
Mary: How bout you, what department do you work in? Clown #37: I'm an assistant buyer in Bed & Furniture. Mary: Better furniture? (looks him up and down) That's kind of what you...well, uh, better something! Uh, uh, how many years have you been in the parade? Clown #37: My fourth parade. Mary: In honor of this, I'm going to drop to my knees and bite your testicles off. Clown #37: Really? Mary: It's what I do, for I am heiress to the fortunes of Shi'nbago, ruler of the planet Hask.
Next up, it's the Peanuts gang, and I'm always down with that. Charlie Brown and friends usually interject themselves into the parades somewhere, whether it's by balloon, or in this case, Charles' Schultz's daughter skating on an ice float with a bunch of hideous costumed characters that I swear are gonna eat me. Jill can skate, mind you, so it's not as surreal of an idea as it sounds. Actually, no, it is. Jill Schultz skating on top of a roving ice rink with characters so creaturesome they make The Dark Crystal fall down to a G rating. Jill's a pretty girl, and she seems nice enough, and she probably inherited like fifty gazillion dollars in 2000, so you should marry her. Serenade her with a freestyle rap version of Linus' God speech. Then surprise her with your superb trivia knowledge by telling her you know all about how Spike, Snoopy's desert brother, was actually based on Charles Schultz's real life pooch. She'll be splitting the bill at a Vegas chapel so fast you'll be able to sneak in there without the prenup.
Hours after the interview talked about above, Jill and the Peanuts freaks finally made their way down Madison, skating their hearts out. In a shocking twist that's likely still causing Jill to binge drink here and there, the people stuck inside those sadistically large and cumbersome Peanuts costumes still manage to outshine her on the rink. See, she's all double-turn this-and-that, while Lucy and Linus were pulling off triple-spinning three-jumper-things. I bet the mere sight of skates still makes Jill cry. If not for this incident, she could've been the next Super Mario 2 Flurry.
Barbie & The Rockers returned in 1987 to again blast audiences away with their hip clothes and performing skills. Barbie is played by a blonde chick, dud, and I guess she's as close to Barbie as you can get in human form. Real Barbie has overly teased hair and wears enough blush to make her look battle-damaged. The float itself is an uncreative Lego sculpture, bright in color but soft in everything else. Real Barbies are rarely improvements over the doll versions, and this was no exception. Barbie eventually lost touch with The Rockers, casting them aside in favor of other, hipper dolls that come with tiny little plastic cell phones and sushi rolls.
Both Spider-Man and Superman represented their respective comic companies in balloon form. Spider-Man has a better pose, but Superman had the largest human facial features in the parade and that's pretty tough to resist. I'm gonna give the nod to Spider-Man on this one. He's making the most of his moment. The Superman balloon doesn't look like it really gives a crap that it's in a Macy's Parade. It's hard to get behind that kind of sentiment. And his hands look like the beginnings of a chicken shadow puppet. Another hard sentiment to cheer for.
Most of the parade activities fall under the category of Absolute Pandemonium, but certain acts are treated with the gentle respect they so richly deserve. For some, the audiences seem to quiet down, basking in the glow of their holy celebrity masters as they bust out with lip-synched Christmas carols and tales about pilgrims baking pumpkin pies. In a few cases, the truly elite get to perform outside the usual parade parameters, giving off the impression that they're too important to even share ground with the common folk. You know the kind of stars I'm talking about. Stars like Clifton Davis.
Yeah, well, shut up, because I'm about to put forth a theory you cannot deny: Clifton Davis, then star of Amen, might seem like a prime target for whatever nasty joke you can think up. But consider this -- should Clifton Davis ever land himself an NBC sitcom, you're gonna seek it out and watch it every week, even if it's on Saturdays, because it's Clifton Davis, and for whatever unknown reason, you can't help but want to see him succeed. It's the same inbuilt colossal joke of an instinct that makes anyone with silver fillings have to chew tin foil at every given opportunity.
The big Cabbage Patch Kids float appeared in the parade for several years, but it was always changing. The young guest stars forced to dance with the creepy costumed cop-a-feelers were different from one year to the next, and in 1987, the kids from Rags to Riches, a show I vaguely recall watching but can't remember a thing about, were your Cabbage Patch sympathizers. Easily the most embarrassing moment of their careers, one can only hope Coleco paid them good money for this. For some reason I want to say that Frankie Avalon played the father on Rags to Riches, but he so didn't. While watching the clip, keep an eye out for that one Cabbage girl wearing glasses -- she's the ringleader, I think. She's trouble.
Nothing like a good old fashioned random unexplained appearance to make you start paying attention again, so out of nowhere, it's the California Raisins! In a rare live appearance, the costumed characters seem oblivious to the fact that they're in a parade, instead looking like they're talking about who they banged last night while strolling down to the tavern. You'll see what I mean...
Finally, we uncover the magic Macy's Parade art of wasting celebrities. Patrick Swayze was game to do pretty much anything asked of him and a five-second shot of him horseriding was the best they could come up with. On the upside, Mary Hart scored a pre-ride interview, which Patrick spends answering completely off-the-top-of-her-head questions about his completely real life obsession with dancing. Guess what movie he was still peddling. Though he's not entirely to blame because the questions were so damn shitty, the horse still would've been a better interview.
There's much more on the next page, including the Garfield balloon, Baby Shamu, and a Marvel Comics float featuring the Hulk falling ass-first onto Power Man. Santa, too! Click here to move on, or use the handy dandy map down below to skip around at your discretion, like a big fat loser who reads the last page of a book first. You sap the holiday spirit from me.