Flashback Friday: Mac Tonight

Time to revisit Loba’s obsession with bizarre company mascots from her youth, thanks to a lovely reminder from one of my favorite ImagiFriendsTM (although we’re friends IRL, so I guess I can’t really refer to him in this way…but I love the classification so very much).

In addition to Spuds MacKenzie trying to convince me that I should like his diluted horse pee beer and Chester Cheetah coercing me to have perpetually stained fingers, or all those kooky kids’ cereal mascots luring me toward their sugary dentally damaging delights, there was this, er, lunatic:

mactonight

Get it? Lun…never mind. Denizens, may I introduce you to Mac Tonight, from that ever-trippy corps of crazy McDonald’s ad campaigns. As I remember it (and that wonderful oracle of truth Wikipedia kind of confirms), our silver sliver-headed songster came about as a means to let us all know that McDonald’s was a really swingin’ dinner-time kinda of lounge, hep cats. Apparently, Ronald was a little too garish for that evening rush that McDonald’s was hoping to drum up. The Golden Arches wanted less red, more blue. Less clown, more…moon?

I get it…night time is the right time (to clog your arteries and succumb to grease-induced zit attacks), so when the Man in the Moon starts to serenade you about when it’s time to head for golden lights, you listen, you dig? Especially when he’s twirling around on a cloud that’s strangely solid enough to hold the weight of a baby grand piano and him, but still light enough to float through the city streets to spread his snappy tune.

[Loba Tangent: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice how silly it was to have a cloud holding up a piano…TPTB quickly replaced the cloud with…a twirling Big Mac. You know, for the realism.]

I snark now about Mac Tonight, but the truth is that I loved this guy when he debuted. That’s the whole point of these wacky mascots, right? Be so ___________ that impressionable people can’t get enough of you or the product you’re shilling? Sadly, though, he wasn’t cool enough to convince me that I should eat Big Macs, which are actually my least favorite McDonald’s offering of all. I’d even choose one of those mystery fish cinder-block burgers before I would order a Big Mac with that disgusting “special sauce” (there is nothing “special” about ruining mayonnaise with ketchup and relish, dammit).

However, he was cool enough to earn his own amazing cavalcade of merchandise, including T-shirts, cups, jackets, belt buckles, toys, hats…I even remember getting my pudgy little paws on a pair of Mac Tonight sunglasses, exactly like this pair:

mtglasses

I loved these sunglasses and wore them for years…long after the little Mac Tonight logo wore off and there was no evidence that they were anything more than a pair of Ray Charles-esque RayBan ripoffs. But that’s okay, considering that Mac Tonight was nothing more than a corporate ripoff of a Bobby Darrin song called “Mac the Knife.” Get it? Yeah, Mac Tonight’s themes were even nothing more than (marginally) reworked lyrics set to the same Darrin tune. It was so blatant (and so very unapproved) that Darrin’s family finally sued McDonald’s, thus bringing an end to Mac Tonight’s night-time TV ad reign…at least here in the States. Apparently, Mac was revived (and CGIed) in 2007 for new commercials for overseas markets in several Asian countries and South Africa. Here’s what the computer-rendered Mac Tonight looks like:

mtcgi

Gone is the Darrin ripoff song and the baby grand. Now, he plays a saxophone and sings a nondescript tune, like this:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/mOlLIP9-vlQ

Meh. Not nearly as groovy as the live action Mac…who was consequently played by Doug Jones. Name not ringing a bell? Don’t worry, denizens, his real face wouldn’t probably ring a bell either. He’s made quite a name for himself in Hollywood, however, for playing amazingly intricate prosthetically disguised characters, including this freakishly disturbing character from Pan’s Labyrinth:

pans-labyrinth

He was also the faun in this movie as well as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies. He was also one of the Gentlemen in one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

buffygentleman

Ah, “Hush.” The episode that introduced Tara Maclay into the Buffyverse. Also, one of the most unnerving hours of television ever filmed.

How the hell did I get from a singing moon to Tara Maclay? It’s a good time for the great taste of the healthy helping of WTFery always ready to be served here at the lair, denizens.

I leave you now with this compilation of Mac Tonight commercials that prompted this whole Flashback. Check the Simpsons cameo. You know you’ve hit the big times when the Simpsons dredge you up! Or, conversely, you know you’ve been on air too long when you have to dredge so deep to the bottom of the pop culture barrel that you reference Mac Tonight (types the wolf who just wrote an entire Flashback Friday on said character…).

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/IrIg18Uby4E

BookBin2012: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Omnibus 1-4

Some of you may already know that I have spent slightly more than a year in the idyllic little slice of hell life known as The Buffyverse. In fact, I just recently finished my sojourn with the viewing of the last episode of Angel.

Being the overachieving geek that I am, of course, I couldn’t leave it at tormenting myself with the shows only. Oh no! There are comics as well, my friends! In fact, both Buffy and Angel continue on in comics-based “seasons.” Prior to this, however, the shows had regular release comics, running concurrently with the shows…just like Star Trek or The X-Files.

Just like Star Trek or The X-Files, these early non-canonical comics are spotty in their storytelling attempts, but more often than not simply awful to behold. On all levels. The artwork is questionable in its best form. In most forms, it’s the equivalent of a hydrochloric eye wash. Seriously, if you cannot find someone able to tell your story in a visually pleasing style, you need to reconsider telling your story in graphic form. Many of the comics are illustrated in poorly chosen styles, some looking so amateurish and off-putting that the artwork distracted me completely from the story itself.

Thankfully, Cliff Richards did a lot of the artwork throughout these first four Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus volumes. His style is far more aesthetically pleasing than some of the more obtuse styles throughout these volumes, albeit more traditional as well. What can I say? I’m just an old-fashioned wolf at heart, I guess. Not even Richards, however, could meet the challenge of making the characters look like their actor counterparts. This is something that I notice in every show- or movie-based graphic novel tie-in: The comic characters very rarely look like the actors.

I’m somewhat all right with this, but it’s because I have decided that the artists do this as a means of signaling that, hey, this isn’t Sarah Michelle Gellar. This is Buffy. And she only looks like Sarah Michelle Gellar when Sarah Michelle Gellar is playing her. Elsewhere? She looks like this. Or this. Or this. The artist is ultimately true to the character, not the player. Does that make sense?

Of course, that being said, sometimes we then end up with comic characters that look like this little slice of WTF:

And believe me when I state that there were worse visual offenses than this throughout these volumes. For the most part, however, I think my biggest quibble with a lot of the artwork was the fact that more often than not, Willow was a brunette. Um…wha? That’s as irritating as a certain TNG novelist writing that Dr. Crusher has green eyes. Again, if you want to be taken seriously, you kind of have to get basics right. I know I just wrote that the artist must remain true to the character rather than the actor with comics…but when you’re not drawing your characters to look like the actors, you need some kind of universal visual to signal that this is Willow and not Cordelia, which honestly became an issue for me with some of the more non-traditional artwork.

That being said, I would like to hug the artist responsible for the cover art for the third volume of this set. Why?

Well played. So very well played.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I chose to read the first four volumes of the Buffy Omnibus because they were readily available through our local library. Only these volumes, however. Honestly? I’m okay with that. Only getting to read the first four volumes is more than okay with me.

As for the stories, they were mostly…unmemorable. Some were short little one-shots that made absolutely no sense and held no point beyond the one being wielded by the Slayer against whatever demonic ick she was facing at the moment.

There were standouts, however. Actually, I’m going to say that the first volume in its entirety was the most enjoyable of the four, and very much worth reading. It begins with a graphic rendering of the original Joss Whedon script for the movie that started all this insanity.

Remember that movie? Yeah.

Well, apparently, it was supposed to be much darker…still possessing pop culture awareness, humor, and kitsch, but also infused with deep shades of melancholy and despair.

Kind of like what the show often tried to be.

The original movie story actually wasn’t bad. Neither was the follow-up arc “Slayer, Interrupted,” which chronicled Buffy’s brief institutionalization that was referenced a few times on the show. It also shows the tangential travails of one Rupert Giles, who wishes to earn the Council’s approval as the next assigned Watcher. The Giles storyline is fairly decent as well and plays quite nicely in conjunction with Buffy’s arc, bringing them together slowly and convincingly until they finally cross in good old Sunnydale.

Before we get the recognizable arrangement of Buffy and Giles and the Scooby Gang, however, we get Volume 2’s “A Stake to the Heart.” This was probably my favorite story arc of all four volumes. It details the end of Buffy’s parents’ marriage and Joyce’s subsequent decision to move her daughters to Sunnydale. It’s quite a dark, grim tale in which Angel accidentally releases a band of “malignancy demons” upon Buffy in an attempt to cast a spell to protect her from the miseries and pressures of life that surround her.

Oops.

Admittedly, it’s a silly sounding premise for a story. However, the artwork is the finest of the lot—bleak, surrealist, disturbing imagery that works well to illustrate the desolation of the tale. I’m sure you all know me well enough by this point to know that this is precisely my type of combination.

Of course, these good stories must share space with some rather lackluster Spike and Drusilla stories as well as stories about vanity-obsessed vampires, mischievous gnomes or elves or something cutesy and forgettable, as well as a story about Dawn and a killer magic teddy bear (although, for some reason, I think I might have liked the teddy bear one, if only for the kitsch).

Again, I’m okay with only having access to the first four volumes of this series.

Final Verdict: Worth checking out but definitely not worth buying…although I honestly would consider buying the first two if I found them for a significantly reduced price.

Flashback Friday: “Shake Your Love”

I know what you’re thinking right now. “But, Loba, you’ve already done an entire Flashback Friday dedicated to Debbie Gibson! Why another one just for one of her songs?”

I have my reasons, denizens. Lemme ‘splain.

So one of my Internet PersonalitiesTM is currently subjecting me to a viewing marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m almost halfway through the third season. It’s a bit of a manic experience, I can assure you. However, the highs are exponentially higher than the lows are low (thus far), so I’m sticking with it.

One of the secondary characters who arrived in the first season and immediately caught my attention was Jenny Calendar, the computer science teacher and, as we soon learn, a “techno pagan” whose mad Internet searching skills quickly come in handy to “the Scooby Gang.”

Robia LaMorte Totally Looks Like Nana Visitor

One of the things that makes me laugh the most about Calendar’s arrival at Sunnydale High is how in awe the Gang is of her computer skills (and how distrusting Watcher Giles is of anything that doesn’t slide back onto a bookshelf once he’s finished reading it). I had almost forgotten how new and unknown things like personal computers and teh Interwebz were back in the mid 90s. So quaint. It’s also a nice juxtaposition that Whedon makes with her character being both a dabbler in the dark arts and a dabbler in the techie arts, which when they were first catching on were viewed by many with an equal level of distrust as being nothing more than electronic hocus pocus. Good one, Whedon.

So what does all this have to do with Debbie Gibson? Jenny Calendar was portrayed by an actress named Robia LaMorte. Okay, right now I also know what you’re thinking: That has to be a stage name. LaMorte? “The Death”? I know, I know. Strangely, enough, this is her real name. And before she was an actress, she was a dancer.

Starting to click for you yet?

That’s right. If you watch the video for Gibson’s song “Shake Your Love,” you will see a 16-year-old LaMorte bopping along in the background with her Jennifer Beals-esque hair. Look for the dark-haired girl in the white T-shirt and the backward suspenders…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldE800eFJps&w=640&h=480]

Sometimes I really miss the 80s. Then I remember Reagan and the fact that I was a pudgy little nerd at a Baptist school and I get over it.

It gets better, though. LaMorte went on to be “Pearl” for Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album. She appeared with Lori Elle (“Diamond”) in several of the videos for songs from this album and even accompanied Prince on his “Diamonds and Pearls” tour back in the early 90s. I’d post a link for one of the videos but Prince doesn’t allow his music on YouTube. Even if I found a video online now, it’d be a dead link in a few weeks. Instead, here’s a screen capture of LaMorte and Elle sandwiching the tiny Purple One in some dance moves from, I believe, “Cream.”

Not long after she finished touring with Prince, LaMorte hung up her dance shoes and decided to chase the acting dream for a little while…which is how she eventually found her way to Sunnydale High. My first encounter with her, however, (other than “Shake Your Love,” of course) was as Joan Marks, from the CSI episode “You’ve Got Male.”

It’s a small one, this geeky world I inhabit.

And now for the…well, not the bad news. But the weird news. Apparently, LaMorte found Jesus. Three months after hitching her wagon to the Buffy Train, she became a Christian. Playing a techno pagan.

Yes, I am making a face right now. It’s my “difficult to process” face. But you know what? It’s obviously something that gives her fulfillment. So much so, in fact, that she runs her own ministry. You’re making a face now, too. I can tell. But it’s all good. She can have her faith. And I can have Jenny Calendar and “Shake Your Love.”

See? And here you all thought this was going to be another Flashback Friday on Debbie Gibson. You all should know me better than that, denizens…