THE TOY STORE FROM AIRHEADS!
“You look like half a butt puppet.” Welcome to Rex’s part time gig at this fantastic toy store in early 90s Los Angeles. You remember Rex, right? The long-haired, mustached bassist for ‘The Lone Rangers’. Yes, the infamous trio who hijacked the Southern California rock radio station, KPPX. And yes, they pluralized the lone ranger.
In case you weren’t paying attention, the entire premise of Airheads fell on the hands of this toy store and I’ll explain why. These boneheads were only able to take over a radio station, hold hostages and demand their record be played on the air thanks to Rex’s toy guns filled with pepper spray that he smuggled from his days at “Clowny’s Toy Town”. Rex was smart enough to stash a few of the guns (and some Crash Dummies dolls) before he tossed his apron at dweeby store manager Zachary and quit to serve full time at the altar of rock ‘n roll.
Seeing as though Christmas is this week, let’s take a crusty cruise down this beautiful aisle and marvel at all the wonderful toys. Enlarge these screen grabs from Airheads and see what you recognize. Maybe Santa Claus left you some of these under your tree when you were a child. Or perhaps he might bring a vintage toy from 1994 down the chimney this year, Or neither. Maybe we just enjoy staring at toy aisles because the world desperately needs Toys ‘R Us and Kaybee Toys to return. YEAH.
1. ROBO BLASTER (Cap Toys, 1992)
Sometimes I just simply refer to the early nineties as the super soaker era because society was at the absolute brink of squirt gun mania. By 1992, companies began trying different spins on soaker guns and ROBO BLASTER was definitely one example. The unique feature of this water gun was that water shoots from your fingertips and requires NO PUMPING. Every kid knows the anxieties of pumping vigorously as a pack of wild, preteen hyenas are in close range and about to take you down. This toy had clear inspiration from the Terminator/Robocop obsession of those days. “Soaks Without Mercy”
2. GAK SPLAT (Nickelodeon, 1992 – present)
Nickelodeon and slime have been synonymous with each other since the days of You Can’t Do That On Television in ’79. For decades the corporation has made slime an evolving money maker. When squished around in it’s star shaped container, “Gak” made fart noises and we all know that joke never gets old. The name “Gak” was first used by Marc Summers on the TV show Double Dare when referring to the slime on the show. Of course “gak” was also a street term for heroin but apparently nobody gave a damn. Since ’92 there have been multiple variations of the squishy product which include Gak-In-The-Dark, Solar Gak, Smell My Gak, Gak Pack, Gak’s Alive and Gakoids.
3. MONSTER FACE (Hasbro, 1992)
Pausing this scene in Airheads and for the first time catching a MONSTER FACE box on the shelves almost brought a tear to my eye for two reasons. One, I’ll never forget Christmas morning of ’92 and unwrapping a box to find a demented, oozing skull looking back at me (see the above embarrassing video). And two, my mom “sold” my Monster Face in a yard sale many years later. It’s gone and they now sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay.
I don’t actually remember seeing the Monster Face commercial or seeing him advertised in the Sears Holiday Catalog, so even though I hold resentment, I ‘gotta give props to my parents for seeing this thing in Kaybee Toys and saying yes, our son needs this. Read all about Monster Face here from a TNUC article years ago.
4. HOME RUN DERBY (Tiger Electronics, 1992)
“The electronic home run hitting machine!” Home Run Derby came equipped with a digital scoring display, realistic sounds of a ball game and fireworks lighting up on the scoreboard. This wouldn’t have been my cup of tea, but I have no doubt it was a fun time. Check out the commercial above!
5. TOTAL CONTROL RACING (TCR) SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE (Tyco, 1992)
“Pass, Steer, Block!” Plastic racecar track sets were such a blast. These were the types of toys that we’d watch the commercials for and immediately want to replicate the vibe and environment of the commercial set, whether it was a desert storm commando habitat or a blackened room with lights flashing, music pumping, guitar squeals and a commentator shouting things.
6. THE INCREDIBLE CRASH DUMMIES TOYS (Tyco, 1991 – 1994)
I sometimes forget how popular Crash *Test* Dummies toys were. Strangely enough the popularity only lasted about 4 years. The action figure line was modeled after the mannequin characters used in a public service campaign during the late eighties to educate people about wearing seat belts. ‘Vince’ and ‘Larry’ were the original dummies and each one had two “impact buttons” on their torsos that, when pushed, would spring their limbs from their bodies. The toy line launched further into various characters, playsets and of course vehicles. Each toy could be destroyed and later be reassembled. Vehicles came equipped with appropriate safety features such as helmets, airbags, and working seatbelts to promote saving lives from safe usage!
7. MOBILE MASTER WALKIE TALKIES (1990, Sound Master)
What better way to spy on your sister’s friend with the huge cans than with the help of a good old pair of Walkie Talkies? Communicate in Morse code while you hide under a couch fort and your best neighborhood pal hovers under the backyard trampoline.
I’m going to need some toy expert assistance on this one because I have no idea what this is. It appears to be a ball shooting came and there’s a “Cap Toys, Inc.” logo on the upper left corner of the box. Dinosaur Dracula and Branded In The 80s…help me out!
9) STRETCH ARMSTRONG (Cap Toys, Inc., 1992)
Though he was first introduced in 1979, I don’t think there is a better defining nineties toy than Stretch Armstrong. I haven’t seen or held one in decades but in my mind I can still feel those squishy arms and legs. Did you know that his stretchy body is made of latex rubber filled with gelled corn syrup? This allows “America’s Favorite Stretching Hero” to retain shape for a short time before returning to original form.
The first Stretch wore simply black trunks, but by the time ’92 rolled around, he morphed into a total Venice Beach-bum. Crop-top, gym shorts, blonde mullet and exaggerated smile. An early ancestor of Big Mike Colonia.
Kids went absolutely berserk for Stretch Armstrong. This was one of those toys that caused mass hysteria and didn’t last on shelves more than a few minutes. He was seemingly indestructible as proven by stretching, bending, twisting, pulling and even tying him in knots. Of course, over time he would disintegrate or melt from exposed sun or heat. If you can find an existing one from the 70s or 90s, that means some person kept him in a pristine climate controlled environment, and that person is a psychopath.
10) 2-XL TALKING ROBOT (Tiger Electronics, 1992)
There are three different versions of this big deal robot but the one in Rex’s toy store is the second edition which ran on cassette tapes (previous was 8-track tapes). 2-XL was made by Dr. Michael J. Freeman, Ph.D, an inventor with an interest in educational robots. 2-XL’s basic function was to teach, hence his name, “To Excell.” However this toy robot could also ask questions, play cool music, tell jokes, play games and puzzles. He was meant to be not only educational and entertaining, for children and adults alike.
2-XL gained so much popularity that he even got his own TV game show at this time, called “Pick Your Brain,” with Marc Summers. This show featured a giant, 10 foot tall 2-XL that helped give the topics to the kid contestants.
11) NIGHTMARE THE VHS BOARD GAME DISPLAY (J.W. Spear & Sons, 1991)
Thinking back to childhood days, many times it was something out of left field to generate true nightmares. Something beyond horror movies and television shows. Enter the appropriately titled board game NIGHTMARE.
The scary thing about Nightmare was the creepy bastard “Gatekeeper” host who spoke to players through a VHS tape that would be inserted at the beginning of the game. He would not only lay out the rules of the game but popped up randomly, giving commands and scaring the bejesus out of you.
Nightmare was such an effective board game of the era, specifically the VHS era by capitalizing on the technology. The truly scary part of this game as a kid was that it seemed as though Mr. Gatekeeper really was listening, waiting and watching your every move. His eye movements and spontaneous outbursts kept players on edge to say the least. I know from experience because this is one of only two items on this list that I personally have at home!
12) HORROR MASKS! (miscellaneous)
That’s right, I saved the best for last. Until recently pausing this toy store scene, I never saw the plethora of horror masks that line the upper walls of Rex’s toy aisle! This is exciting because we’ve written many times about how the old shops would keep all the bad ass, expensive Halloween masks up in hard to reach areas of the aisles. It actually made the whole vibe that much scarier as you’d look up and see dozens of grotesque masks looking down at you. They’re easy to miss, but if you zoom up it appears that Pinhead, Michael Myers and Dracula were hot sellers of Clowny’s Toy Shop. And really why wouldn’t they be?
*Thanks for checking out this “I Spy” feature from the all-time classic, Airheads. If you’re thirsty for more, TNUC did a virtual tour of Buzz McCallister’s bedroom from a few years ago over here*