JULY’S LOCAL HOT SPOT OF THE MONTH: CAMP ANAWANNA.
Nickelodeon’s golden years of 1990 to 1995 were nothing short of a revelation. If you spent anytime in front of the tube during this time, the network was a hotbed of nonstop entertainment because of shows like Hey Dude, Double Dare, Wild & Crazy Kids, Are You Afraid Of the Dark?, Clarissa Explains It All and the mackdaddy of them all, SALUTE YOUR SHORTS.
Everyone knows summer days as a kid were dreamlike, but can you imagine a summer without rules, reading lists, the neighbor’s killer dog or parents? Some of us dreamed of what it would be like being dumped at summer camp for two months, and those of us who did had fantasies swirling around in our heads thanks to a little place we visited in our minds for a half-hour each afternoon…
So reach for that watermelon Italian Ice and kick those hi-top CONS up on your desk as Uncle T takes us back to camp with July’s Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month: CAMP ANAWANNA!
Every summer camp disciple knows a camp is only as strong as it’s campers, and this place had a wrecking crew like no other: Dina, ZZ, Michael, Telly, Pinsky, Sponge, DonkeyLips and Budnick…FUCKING BOBBY BUDNICK. This prankster was Anawanna’s #1 troubled teen and Budnick held the title of most obnoxious camper year after year with high prestige. The ratty, redheaded-stepchild really deserves a spotlight feature on his own around here, which clearly has a lot to due with him playing John Connor’s punker friend in Terminator 2, because he’s still 100% “Budnick” in the movie. Nothing was radder on a young, impressionable mind than a couple kids riding dirt bikes, listening to Guns N’ Roses and ripping off ATMs. Okay, back to Camp…
Bobby and Donkey Lips, crude dudes 4 life…
At the surface, Salute Your Shorts seemed to have all the stereotypical “camp” characters, but it became something else entirely. All the kids at Anawanna had completely different personalities, and sticking them in a couple cabins together for a summer brought out the best in them. Take for instance Donkey Lips, a fat oddball with a heart of gold who became friends with kids he never would have back at home or in school. As annoying as he was, even Donkey Lips taught the others a thing or two, like when he won over Dina’s heart during a “spotlight dance” at one of the camp socials. Of course, Dina was forced to dance with him, but she learns an important life lesson about kindness from ol’ Donkey Lips, of all people. Then there was Michael from the show’s primere episode, who’s first experience at camp involved Budnick and a couple of his goons stealing his trunks and running them up the flagpole for all camp to salute!
These motley camp-goers were the rebellious type (the way they should be). Being clever and brave to achieve some kind of victory was a quality shared in other Nickelodeon shows at the time as well. Kids acted like kids, not mini-adults obsessed with status, cell phones and “likes”. At Camp Anawanna it was all about food fights, telling ghost stories, smuggling salami into camp, lighting things on fire and giving someone an awful waffle*.
*Administering an “Awful Waffle”: 1) Pin somebody to the top of a table. 2) Pull their shirt up. 3) Firmly press a tennis racket into their stomach. 4) Pour syrup on their stomach.
Kevin “Ug” Lee!
“Ug” was the neurotic, goofball camp counselor who everyone pulled pranks on. Nothing was funnier than seeing Ug go bananas after trying to discipline the campers and failing miserably. His trademark features were his bucket hat, sunscreened nose and floral shirts.
I’ve always wondered how old Ug was supposed to be and also how he landed the head counselor position in the first place.
Zeke the Plumber!
The introduction of Zeke the Plumber in the first season of Salute Your Shorts was a nightmare of epic proportions that rattled the memories of ’90s kids even to this day. The story of Zeke begins in the Philippines when his nose was bitten off by a parrot. He couldn’t smell a gas leak created when he hit a gas pipe while digging a hole, so he makes a big mistake and lights a match, causing an explosion. The only item that remained was his toilet plunger which now bared a curse. It is said, according to paranormal historian Bobby Budnick, that Zeke wanders the camp trying to find his plunger and anyone who touches it will be haunted in their dreams.
Ask any kid who grew up watching this show how difficult it was sleeping at night after this episode aired in 1991 (only the 2nd episode of the 1st season!). Zeke wore a mask that appeared to be made of flesh, and as silly as the scene may look now, people watching a Nickelodeon show about summer camp in ’91 didn’t see this coming. The ability to strike a nerve using a story like this speaks to the genius of Nickelodeon during this time. So many kids were left feeling something after watching this episode, to the point that by 2016 Zeke the Plumber has generated a certain cult following.
It sucked when parents, teachers and child psychologists used to say that pint-sized TNUC’s brain was turning into zombie mush from watching too much Nickelodeon. This mere myth couldn’t have been further from the truth, as shows like Salute Your Shorts and Are You Afraid of the Dark? made me want to run outside and have neighborhood super soaker wars, play laser tag and face plant into giant piles of leaves. What a time to be alive.
[Local-Hot-Spot-Of-The-Month is a adrenaline-thrusting history lesson and celebration of signature hangout spots one might recognize from television, film or real life. Our objective is to not just rediscover and dissect these places, but more importantly create a feeling like you’re really there. Take your time with these entries. Hang out. Turn some music on.
To visit the rest of ’em, go here.]