Saturday Frights Podcast Ep. 100 – Gremlins

Friends, although it took much longer than anticipated to deliver the eighteen episodes that made up season three of the Saturday Frights podcast, we have finally reached the end of the line. What better way to celebrate the 100th episode of the show than tackling an important movie that we’ve attempted to cover three or four times in the past. While you might consider it something of a spoiler, I will tell you that the Projectionist and I actually do get to discuss 1984’s Gremlins on this go around. In addition I will give you a heads up that this podcast is far, far longer than the standard show. It just seemed that for the 100th episode of the podcast, a feat that has taken a little over six years to accomplish, that we should attempt to blow the doors off our previous episodes.

Obviously with a film like Gremlins, we are fortunate to have an abundance of information on the making of the movie. In fact there might actually be too much information to share, we ended up cherry picking the trivia we felt would interest you Fright Fans the most. Including a bit of information from the Gremlins reunion for Empire magazine, with Nick De Semlyen chatting with the likes of Joe Dante (The Howling), Zach Galligan (Waxwork), Dick Miller (Chopping Mall), Chris Walas (The Fly), as well as Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London).

As I share in the podcast itself, Gremlins was a movie that I was extremly hyped about seeing, when it was originally released to theaters on June 8th of 1984. As is discussed on the show, the backlash from parent groups over both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as Gremlins, caused none other than Steven Spielberg to help create the PG-13 rating.

There is a lot to cover on this 100th episode of the Saturday Frights podcast, but before we get to show, I thought I should give a huge thank you to some special guests:

Ashley Thomas aka The Nerdy Blogger has her work frequently featured on Fangirlish as well as the Sci-Fi 5 podcast. The daily five minute podcast that provides the best in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror history – produced by Roddenberry Entertainment.

We also are lucky enough to have the esteemed Earl Green join us on this special episode of the podcast. Earl is no stranger to the Sci-Fi 5 podcast himself, as well as running The Log Book.com – one of the longest running sites on the internet focusing on everything pop culture.

Last but certainly not least is Rockford Jay, my co-host on the Saturday Frights Facebook page – who does his level best to help me keep a lid on the madness of the Vault. He manages to share his love of retro horror on a nearly daily basis, and I am sad to add is frequently the target of the Projectionist’s schemes and explosive temper.

Without further ado, please join the Projectionist and myself at the Haunted Drive-In, as we discuss 1984’s Gremlins. As always we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show, and hope that you have enjoyed season three of the podcast.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

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Check Out This 1983 Gremlins Promotional Documentary

Friends, in the over ten years that I have been writing online, from my original blog to the Retroist and now with Pop Culture Retrorama, I think that I have successfully gotten across the point that I am a fan of horror. It has always been my go-to genre thanks to being raised as a Monster Kid on the likes of the Universal Monsters, The Twilight Zone, Creepy magazines, and Weird War Tales comic books to name a few. However it always seemed like that besides my Father, the rest of my family and friends never cared to discuss any of the horror movies that I saw on the weekends. That changed though when Gremlins was released to theaters on June 8th of 1984, because it seemed like every where I went I could find people to talk about the film.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Movieclips Classic Trailers.

Of course let us not forget that almost everywhere you went after the film was released you could also buy merchandise such as toys, video games, clothing, and Ralston Gremlins cereal!

VIDEO PROVIDED BY JoBlo Horror Trailers.

Here is a fun fact for you, the first actor featured in that television commercial is Jonathan Ward (Charles in Charge), who would also appear in the excellent 1985 Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Shadow Man”. Which just so happened to have been helmed by none other than Gremlins‘ director Joe Dante – which for what it might be worth was featured in an earlier episode of the Saturday Frights podcast.

Which brings us back around to the subject for this article, this Gremlins promotional documentary which as I understand it was produced by Laurent Bouzereau (The Warriors) and features behind the scenes footage captured by the iconic Mick Garris (Fantasy Film Festival, Nightmare Cinema). Both Garris and Dante are two directors that I greatly admire, so it is a blast to get to see the latter kidding around with the likes of Hoyt Axton and John Louie on the set. In addition to featuring brief interviews with Steven Spielberg, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, as well as Chris Walas – who was responsible for the design of the hilarious yet deadly titular creatures of the film.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Mick Garris Interviews.

Saturday Frights Podcast Ep. 094 – The Howling

Friends, you might not have realized it but yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of The Howling, the classic werewolf picture directed by the legendary Joe Dante (Gremlins, Small Soldiers). And while I do wish we could have released this latest episode of the Saturday Frights podcast on the actual anniversary, as you will be able to hear for yourself, things at the Haunted Drive-In have kept the Projectionist and I pretty busy. Although considering the running time for this particular episode of the podcast, I feel it is safe to say that we had quite a bit to say about the making of The Howling as well as the embarrassment of riches it possesses in regards to the cast, both newcomers and a staggering number of character actors and surprise cameos.

As mentioned in the episode itself, when The Howling was released on April 10th of 1981, it marked one of four films to play in theaters that year that dealt with werewolves. And it might surprise you to learn that some of the effects for Joe Dante’s modern take on the creatures of lore and legend were begun by Rick Baker (King Kong, Ghost Story) who had to go work on An American Werewolf in London – handing over the job to Rob Bottin of John Carpenter’s The Thing fame.

From classic animated shorts by Ub Iwerks to the fact that many of the characters in The Howling are named after film directors who made their own werewolf films, there is a lot of ground to cover. So without further ado we hope you will grab your favorite snack and beverage and join us as we tackle 1981’s The Howling on the Saturday Frights podcast.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

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Did You Catch All The Gremlins Easter Eggs In That Mt. Dew Zero Commercial?

Friends, the other day you probably saw that there was a reunion of sorts for two of the stars from 1984’s Gremlins – courtesy of a brand new Mountain Dew ad. The humorous commercial features Zach Galligan (Waxwork) reprising his role as Billy Peltzer as well as the adorable Gizmo, who like in the classic Joe Date film is voiced by Howie Mandell (Little Monsters, Bobby’s World). In fact this Mountain Dew commercial is sort of a big thing as it might very well be the last time that Mandell voices the iconic Mogwai – it was revealed last year that he will not voice the character in the upcoming Gremlins: Secrets of The Mogwai animated series on HBO Max. Just in case you haven’t watched the Gremlins Mt. Dew Zero Commerical yet, it gives us a quick look at the life of an older Gizmo and Billy… although perhaps not wiser in this case?

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGES PROVIDED BY Mountain Dew.

Considering what Billy and Kate (Phoebe Cates) and the citizens of Kingston Falls went through in the 1984 film as well as what they experienced in Gremlins 2 – you really can’t fault their daughter for that massive eye-rolling at her Father, right? Furthermore I have to point out I totally need a collectible based off her personal Mogwai – that thing is amazing!

There are quite a few Easter eggs present in the first few seconds of the Mt. Dew Zero commercial – some a little easier to spot than others. First of all you can see a pair of 3D glasses on the coffee table in front of Billy and Gizmo. However if you look in the background in the upper right-hand corner you will see not only the motorcycle helmet that Gizmo hid in but a poster based off Billy’s caricature of Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) from the 1984 film.

Also visible in those openings moments of the commercial, behind the sofa is a red lamp that looks very similar to the one seen in Billy’s bedroom – in addition there is a postcard that I would be willing to bet is from Billy’s parents in Kingston Falls. You can also see an airplane on a shelf which ties into the gremlins lore from World War II – made popular by Roald Dahl in his 1943 book as a matter of fact.

Of course it is easy to spot the Peltzer company logo on Billy’s vest which I assume means that his Father was able to keep working as an inventor of gadgets. But if you look on the wall you can make out a Gremlins poster and below that is a popcorn machine, which might very well be a nod to the movie theater scene in the 1984 film.

After Gizmo spills the Mt. Dew Zero and begins to spawn more Mogwai, we can see that not only has Billy continued to collect comic books but there are architectural drawings on the table. Possibly hinting that Billy has continued to work as an architectural designer for Daniel Clamp, who was played by John Glover (In the Mouth of Madness) in the 1990 sequel.

In closing out this article, I truly hope that this is just the first in a series of Mt. Dew Zero ads featuring Gizmo and Billy. If you spotted more references to either Gremlins or Gremlins 2 – make sure to point them out in the comments section.

These Small Soldiers Are Definitely Not A Toy

Friends, just last month I shared with you the behind the scenes video from the Stan Winston Studios of their work on 1998’s Small Soldiers. In that article I explained why the family-friendly film from Joe Dante was one of the handful of movies released that year that I just had to see on opening day. A large part of that had to do with of course being enamored with the films of Dante like Piranha, Gremlins, and of course The Howling. The third movie being one of those films I caught at that cherished drive-in theater of my youth, which is why it has been selected as a future Saturday Frights Podcast episode. The other reason I was so excited about the release of Small Soldiers has more to do with just loving toys and action figures in general. Furthermore as the trailers for Small Soldiers hinted at, it most certainly had a bit of a Gremlins vibe, as an experimental military chip brings the Commando Elite to life to wreck havoc on an unsuspecting neighborhood.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Rafael M.

It is very interesting that none of the Gorgonites, the opposing toy line in the film is featured in that trailer, right? I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was disappointed to see the box office take for Small Soldiers after it’s opening weekend. While not a box office bomb by any stretch of the imagination, I had hoped that it would do well enough at least that we would get not just a sequel but more toys for both the Commando Elite and Gorgonites.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY retro VHS trailers.

Thankfully over the years Small Soldiers has developed a strong cult following. So much so that it was revealed that a remake was in the works, one of the 200 film and television projects that found itself cancelled when 21st Century Fox was bought by Disney back in 2019. With that cult following though characters from the film have found themselves being made into stunningly faithful high-end collectibles – to say nothing of being screen accurate – taken from the Stan Winston Studio molds in some cases. Case in point Nick Nitro (voiced in the film by Clint Walker) from Yu Liang Lee, who produced the head, forearms, and the lower waist for the foot tall collectible from the actual prop molds from the 1998 film.

Although I should point out that official cold cast porcelain figures were produced for Major Chip Hazard (Tommy Lee Jones), Archer (Frank Langella), Insaniac (Michael McKean), and Freakenstein (McKean) by Softgarage Inc. but only sold in Japan. Of course that is no obstacle for a true Small Soldiers fan, right?

In closing out this article, I am fortunate enough that one of my friends from the arcade is also a huge Small Soldiers fan. He is the one who was kind enough to bring in these wonderful collectibles for Nick Nitro and Major Chip Hazard so that I could share them with you.

Stan Winston And The Puppet Effects Of Small Soldiers

Friends, back in 1998 there were a handful of films that I had marked on my calendar as movies I just could not miss. A few of those included Godzilla, The Mask of Zorro, The X-Files, Deep Impact, and Small Soldiers. As I shared in past articles, at this time I was regularly keeping up with all of the new film releases, thanks in part to working at a local movie theater, as well as picking up Premiere and other film-themed magazines. Having said that though, the first I heard of Small Soldiers was thanks to the teaser trailer that I recall being attached to The Lost World: Jurassic Park in ’97.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY AdsNTrailers.

When I learned that Small Soldiers was being directed by Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) – my expectations and desire to catch the film grew by leaps and bounds. Dante was and still is one of my favorite directors and when Small Soldiers was released on July 10th of 1998 – I took the day off and made sure that I was at the first matinee showing. While I was not disappointed in the film, I was a little surprised by how much CGI was used – with Stan Winston (Pumpkinhead, The Monster Squad) being involved in the picture, I had assumed it would feature an abundance of practical effects. Thanks to an interview with Ben Sachs for the Chicago Reader from back in 2012, Dante admits that going practical was the original idea:

“On Small Soldiers, we were planning to use a lot of Stan Winston’s puppets—he had made some very elaborate puppets that could do a lot of things. But in practice, we found it was much simpler and cheaper to let the CGI people do the work after we’d shot the scenes. So, I would say, it’s one-third puppetry and the rest CGI in Small Soldiers, even though the original idea was to do mostly puppetry.”

Thanks to this short behind the scenes video from the Stan Winston School of Character Arts – you will learn what a time crunch the effects studio was truly under to work their magic on the film. It will also give you a chance to see the skills of the puppeteers at work – in addition to Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg checking things out.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Stan Winston School.

In closing out this article I want to thank the Practical Effects Group on Facebook for the heads up on behind the scenes video.

Saturday Frights Podcast Ep. 089 – Shadow In The Cloud

Friends, I think it will speak volumes that for this brand new episode of the Saturday Frights podcast – the Projectionist and I have decided to discuss Shadow in the Cloud. The World War II action/horror film that was just released on VOD and in select theaters just five days ago – starring Chloë Grace Moretz. Although I make a point of mentioning it in the show itself – this particular podcast is kind of a throwback to the original episodes of the show, in that we do not go fully into spoiler territory. It seemed like the most logical choice as many of you will not have had the opportunity to catch Shadow in the Cloud yet. We stick to mostly a brief overview of the film, touching on only that which you could see in the trailer itself. Which means that this episode has a shorter running time that our standard show – we hope though that you will be entertained nonetheless.

In addition the Projectionist has managed to bring along a few audio treats for your listening pleasure – to say nothing of the fact that he fills us in on the history of gremlins. I manage to even share a story from my Grandfather who served during World War II as well as the Korean War – he had some run-ins with more than a few pilots who swore they saw a Gremlin on their plane.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

We sincerely hope you are enjoying the new season of the show – if you have friends or family that are fans of horror – let them know about the podcast. HAPY NEW YEAR!

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Retro Records: The Happy Hamsters Go Ghostbustin’ (1984)

Friends, there is no doubt at all in my mind that you are more than familiar with Alvin and the Chipmunks – whether that be through their best selling albums, animated series, or the recent films. Having said that however, I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that the majority of you have never heard of The Happy Chipmunks – who released three albums between 1982 and 1984 – which included two Christmas collections as well as covers of popular Michael Jackson songs. The creation of which, as I found out thanks to Discogs, was courtesy of company located in New Jersey – the reason for putting a kid-friendly musical group together was naturally to piggyback off the popularity of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Who had been experincing a surge in popularity thanks to the releases of albums like A Chipmunk Christmas, Chipmunk Rock, and Chipmunk Punk to name just a few.

Video Provided by RetroTy: The Pulse of Nostalgia.

It appears that around the time The Happy Chipmunks Sing Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits was released – it had caught the eye of Ross Bagdasarian Jr. – whose Father of course created the Chipmunks – and a lawsuit was filed. Which resulted in The Happy Chipmunks becoming The Happy Hamsters although their shtick remained the same. With the 1984 release of The Happy Hamsters Go Ghostbustin’ the group naturally covers the hit song from the film by Ray Parker Jr. – although the album also features story elements that feature such well known musical themes as The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Carol Anne’s Theme from Poltergeist, and the Gremlin Rag from Gremlins.

Besides a skit involving Dracula – the album features covers of Hall & Oates Maneater, Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me, Michael Sembello’s Maniac, as well as Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Although as I will admit to owning The Happy Hamsters Go Ghostbustin’ – I mainly played the Gremlins Rag and title track.

Video and Article Image Provided by MITCHVISIONdotCOM.

As far as I know that was the end of the records produced featuring The Happy Hamsters – that however was not the end for one of the members of the band. As ‘Michael’ went on to host a series of Kid Pics VHS tapes – which included a collection of public domain animated shorts and an assortment of science fiction and horror film trailers hosted by Al Lewis (The Munsters). It was a different time… perhaps best proven by watching around the 3:42 mark on the video below.

Video Provided by Truckenson.

Nick Lutsko Asks Where Did The Gremlins Go?

Friends, the other evening on Facebook, one of my fellow PCR writers was nice enough to direct me to a brand new music video by Nick Lutsko – an artist and songwriter who just so happens to have earned himself two Webby nominations for his work. The subject of this latest video is something that I think many of us fans of the 1984 collaboration between Joe Dante, Steven Spielberg, and Chris Columbus have wondered – put simply – Where Did the Gremlins Go? Nick’s amazingly humorous video gives us a glimpse at the Gremlins sequels that might have been… or at the very least where they might have made an appearance in other popular films.

Video Provided by Nick Lutsko.

Now during the time that I was writing for the Retroist, nearly a decade when all was said and done, as well as on this site – I have mentioned that Gremlins was a movie that I continue to love. So much so that I will reveal that it is going to be the subject of the 100th episode of the Saturday Frights podcast in the near future.

Personally I feel that some of the reasons that Gremlins are still part of pop culture is that the cast and crew were able to deliver a horror movie – one that happens to be just as darkly funny as it can be moving. A real lightning in a bottle type of situation thanks to Dante’s direction, the extremely likeable cast, and of course guidance from Spielberg as well as Columbus’ screenplay.

I can recall catching an actual television commercial for Gremlins and even that memorable one-sheet from the late and great John Alvin – who also supplied the artwork for such films as The Goonies, Batman Returns, and Space Jam to name a few. Having said all of that however – until today I have NEVER seen this particular teaser for Gremlins before… and my life has been lesser for it.

Video and Article Image Provided by JoBlo Horror Trailers.

In closing out this article, we know that it isn’t just Nick Lutsko that still craves more Mogwai and Gremlins fun – after all we are getting Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai next year, right?

Every Book Has a Story Too!

In my previous article that I hope you had a chance to read, I shared six childhood toys from my youth that I fondly remember, and thankfully still own. This time, I have the pleasure of sharing with you some books that bring back memories as profound as any toy!

Every Book Has A Story Too - TRON - The Transformers - Gremlins - Javier Ojst

“This is the story of The Gift of the Mogwai. You can read along with me in your book. You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this…”

Let’s’ Begin Now:

As I started pulling this treasured Read-Along Book out of the safety of its protective plastic bag, it tore at the spine and effectively separating itself from the whole book. It is a sad exhibition of how fragile paper can become after 35 years. An easy fix, but I could almost visualize the adorable Mogwai named Gizmo on the cover shedding a tear as he observed me delicately trying to repair the tragically torn book. Me, a 42-year-old adult, trying to hold my childhood memories together with scotch tape and lots of hope!  Sure, I could purchase another book on eBay without having to mortgage the house, and in much better condition than the one that just fell apart in my hands- but darn it- that isn’t the one I owned as a child. This musty smelling one is, and it must be salvaged and preserved.

Read-Along Books were inexpensive substitutes for owning the home video version of the film, which, believe it or not, could easily cost upwards of $30 in 1985. These books included a 7-inch record with word-for-word story narration, dramatic character dialogue, authentic sound effects, and musical backgrounds. Even though the books were about animated features and movies mostly suitable for the entire family, the dialogue wasn’t watered down.  It was edited as not be a full-blown 200-page novelization, but the content stayed true to the films. I can still read these short books today to get that quick nostalgia shot, manifesting itself for the world to see as an ear to ear smile and a twinkle in my Lasik-operated eyes.

SEE the pictures, HEAR the record, READ the book!

I’d spend hours reading these books as the narrator guided me through crucial parts of the films I loved but didn’t own. The artwork varied in quality from book to book, but these stories enthralled me to no end. They also kept me from bugging my mom and helped me pass the time in lieu of friends. Got to love that Tinker Bell chime that let you know it was time to turn the page!

Read-Along Books were around since the mid-sixties, but circa 1987, tapes substituted the included seven-inch records. As a child, the simplicity of sitting down with a book containing the written form of the films you loved and having them read to you was a very comforting feeling. There was never a fear of reprimand for not knowing or mispronouncing a word. It was a child’s safety zone, my safety zone.

I also had Big Looker Storybooks from Marvel Books featuring my beloved Transformers and Golden Super Adventure Books with the runner-up GoBots.

Although these didn’t contain a record, for $1.50, you had arguably better-crafted Transformer stories than the animated series that made the franchise a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. In my honest opinion, the Transformer books had beautiful artwork. You can only imagine how a child’s eyes lit up with these books in their hands, just taking everything in. A special shout-out goes out to artists Earl Norem and John Speirs, who did the artwork for these fabulous storybooks.

The Transformers - Earl Norem - John Speirs - Javier Ojst

Exciting Action From The High-Tech World of GoBots-Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles!

GoBots hold a special place in my forever nostalgic heart, but they were never like the Transformers. If you had the money, why go with RC Cola if Coca-Cola was available? And no, we’re not going to talk about Pepsi. Yech! The changing from vehicles to robots was less complicated with the GoBots, and the animated show was undoubtedly for an even younger audience than the already juvenile Transformers. The books followed the same pattern of simplicity, with the artwork leaving much to be desired. At the time, the books were inexplicably more expensive too. Of course, they entertained me as a kid, but I could sense the lopsided gulf between the two franchises even at a young age.

Return of the Jedi - Javier Ojst

Watching Star Wars: Return of The Jedi in theaters in 1983 as a five-year-old was an experience I hope never to forget and forever be able to recall whenever I find myself with “a case of the Monday’s,” and a little down in the dumps. I remember sitting in those huge theater seats (huge to a five-year-old), and witnessing the vile, gangster Jabba The Hutt and his enormous pet Rancor. The Speeder Bike chase scene on the forest moon of Endor was and still is exhilarating. You also had the second and final confrontation between Luke Skywalker and his father, the evil Darth Vader. Plus, the Emperor’s force lightning that sounded like an electricity charged explosion struck me with terror, making me sink into and try to disappear in my seat. These are all memories ingrained in the deepest recesses of my mind.

The Return of the Jedi Giant Collectors Compendium: Heroes, Villains, Creatures and Droids transported me back to the movie theater; stuffing my brain with info about all my favorite characters and providing me an in-depth look at ROTJ before the existence of Star Wars encyclopedias, the extensive Expanded Universe and of course the internet. Inside, I learned about the henchmen’s names in Jabba’s palace: Ephant Mon, Hermi Odle, Elom and his guards Klaatu, and Nikto (no Barada for those The Day the Earth Stood Still and the Evil Dead: Army of Darkness fans). The compendium and a blue plastic ROTJ wallet with R2D2 and C-3PO on the front went with me everywhere. Both have survived all these years, with the compendium still conserving the scotch tape used on numerous occasions to keep it from falling apart (Thank you, mom!). In almost immaculate condition, the vintage wallet remains as I carried it in 1983: without as much as a dollar bill or even a quarter inside. But who needs money when wonderful memories feed and tend to your heart and soul?

Dinosaur Time - Peggy Parish - Arnold Lobel - Javier Ojst

I used to be crazy for dinosaurs. They were all I used to think about (that and the Dukes of Hazzard). They ruled the Earth millions of years ago, but they also ruled and possessed my thoughts, dreams, and seemingly controlled my actions at a particular time in my childhood. When the school I attended, Pembroke Pines Elementary in South Florida had a Scholastic book fair, the only books I ordered were about dinosaurs. I also got a cool frogman scuba toy, but that got boring, real quick. Once in the water, it just flopped and turned over and didn’t swim as gracefully as I imagined it would. But back to dinosaurs:

Giant reptiles thundering across the ground we now live on, with their fossils possibly buried underneath our feet. Dinosaurs became my gateway to fictional giant creatures known as Kaiju, like Godzilla, Rodan, Anguirus, and the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah. What could be cooler than a dinosaur? A dinosaur named Godzilla that could breathe nuclear fire, of course! C’mon, Stick with me here!

My earliest memories of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life involved me becoming either a Paleontologist, Archaeologist (thanks to the Indiana Jones), or a combination of both. My love for dinosaurs waned when Jurrasic Park was released in theaters in 1993. Honestly, I can’t recall what I was into by then, probably sports, wrestling, and Super Nintendo, but it wasn’t dinosaurs anymore. If I were, I’d probably be somewhere in Arizona dusting off fossils with a little brush while wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect me from the infernal sun. Or down in the jungles of Central America not drinking the water, and unearthing ancient Mayan pyramids and not telling you about any of this. So, in that sense, I’m pleased I didn’t follow that path.

Wrestling Superstars - Daniel and Susan Cohen - Javier Ojst

As I carefully handle the now frail book published in 1985, hoping it doesn’t suffer the same fate as The Gift of the Mogwai, I’m transported back to a time when pro wrestling was all too real for me.

Kayfabe: The term used to describe the illusion that professional wrestling is not staged, i.e., REAL.

Is wrestling fake? Well, no, but it isn’t easy to explain what that means. Is it predetermined? Yes. Was it amazing in the ’80s? You better believe your power slam it was! In 1985, the book Wrestling Superstars, written by Daniel and Susan Cohen, made it all seem legit like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, and Inside Wrestling magazines presented the grappling game. How could a seven-year-old doubt a magazine, or a book? Could a book’s contents be filled with lies? I acquired this gem at a Winn-Dixie supermarket checkout lane after begging my mom to buy it for me. The cover features color photos of Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik, Sergeant Slaughter, and Wendi Richter plus promising “action packed photos” inside! Unfortunately, the images inside are a dismal black and white.

“It’s hot. It’s chic. It’s hip. It’s now. It’s the sports spectacle sensation of the ‘80s. What is it? Why, it’s professional wrestling, of course!” -Opening sentence for Wrestling Superstars by Daniel and Susan Cohen.

The book contains over 30 wrestlers and divides them into Good Guys and Bad Guys. There is a small separate section about women’s wrestling and an even smaller one covering the sport’s legends, famous venues, organizations, and magazines. The biographies within walk a tightrope between truth and embellished fictional accounts that wrestling is renowned for.

Not yet familiar with wrestling magazines and no internet for at least a decade, this book became my wrestling bible. I poured through the pages learning “insider information” about the stars I loved and those I loved to hate as the book proclaims on the back cover. A couple of months ago, I was shocked to find out there is actually a volume 2! Worth $5 plus shipping, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading! My other articles for Pop Culture Retrorama are here, and if you enjoy old school wrestling,  you can read my work for Pro Wrestling Stories here.