“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*
For centuries, the howl of the wolf has prowled through humanity’s collective subconcious. Mystery, longing, even terror have long been associated with wolves unearthly choruses. Today, however, many people hear a different wolf. Today the vocalizations are often called “wolf music” and are appreciated by those who travel wolf country earnestly seeking the opportunity to hear this last true voice of the wilderness.
Today, most believe that wolves no longer need our justification to exist, that they have an inherent right to share the deep forests and that wolves do enrich our lives.
New Age Wolf will certainly enrich your musical life. This magical blending of a wide variety of wolf barks, calls and howls with the best of today’s new age compositions will provide an escape from the stresses of ordinary life. This recording is anything but ordinary. Adding depth to the music and wolf vocalizations, a wide array of other natural sounds — waves on a northern lake, crows, the wind through the pines, barred owls, and bull elk bugles — compliment the already inspiring synthesis. New Age Wolf is a potent tonic for the troubles of the 20th century. Its soothing melodies — of both natural and technologic origin — will transport you to a wilderness home, even if it’s only for an hour.
3. AUTUMN SEASON
5. HUNGRY PREDATOR
6. MEMORY BANK
7. TIGER ATTACK
8. DRIFTWOOD BEACH
9. BISCAYA SUNSET
10. PICTURES IN MOTION
11. WARM GLOW
13. SOFT SIESTA
14. FINAL CONCLUSION
Here at the TNUC Lair, we wouldn’t dare treat the Thanksgiving season as just a lull between the two big holidays.
I suppose pretty good evidence of that can be found on not one, but two “Mystery Meat” mixtapes released over the past few years — the only Thanksgiving/holiday-feast themed mixtape series in existence.
But this year I wanted to have something tangible, old and crusty that I could kick my feet up and stare at as I sip my glass of bourbon and take a forty second drag of my Old Gold heater.
So Uncle T went for a quest to find a couple ancient ceramic Wild Turkey decanters and boy did I rise up with gold. Watch the video.
These beautiful big birds of the month are part of a group titled the “Wild Turkey Lore Series”. The bird with the extra wide wingspan is the first in the series, debuting in 1979 and carrying on over the next few years with turkeys in different natural habitats. Each were sculptured by hand and “crafted with a traditional bisque finish that’s designed to enhance its rich detailing and coloration”.
I can’t think of a better way to honor the Great American Turkey than filling these with whiskey and turning loose on Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy the video.
No, you’re not dreaming. THE COORS LIGHT BEER WOLF IS BACK. Just typing or commanding that sentence out loud sends shivers down my spine and over towards my crotchal region.
A company called The Laundry Room and the good people at Coors Light Headquarters recently teamed up for a howlin’ hot endeavor to awaken our hairy hunk of burning love from his mighty slumber and plaster his face all over t-shirts, jackets, bandanas, crop-tops, hats, spandex white shorts and more! They’ve collectively catapulted Beer Wolf right back into the spectrum. AHROOoo!!
Recognize that furry head? That’s Uncle TNUC’s pride and glory Beer Wolf mascot head that I let the ‘fellas from The Laundry Room borrow! A couple months ago they held a top secret photoshoot in the mountains of Yosemite National Park and Beer Wolf’s giant squash made a special appearance.
Of course I had my trepidations since the mascot head is so precious to me and such a rare artifact. Initially one of the plans presented to me was the company flying me out to the shoot and personally guarding the furry bastard with my life, but instead I shipped him out safely and he was handled with the utmost care.
This whole experience was very surreal given that our little community of Beer Wolf supporters and admirers have just been going about our business, while collecting vintage gems and hoping he’d return one day. I really hope this clothing collection motivates Coors Light to keep the momentum going and maybe Beer Wolf will start re-appearing in commercials, liquor stores and (fingers crossed) reunited with ELVIRA!
Take a look at this nifty historical timeline of Beer Wolf, specifically “1993 – 2020 Rare Vintage Sightings”. Let’s not gloss over that essential time period. If it wasn’t for Beer Wolf disciples like the ones reading this very article, I don’t think this promotional launch would have been possible. It’s because of efforts like our #BeerWolfWednesday hashtag on the social media fronts that raised awareness of the mighty BW and spread the word after a nasty hibernation put him on the endangered species list and (gulp), almost made him extinct.
Let’s be honest, Beer Wolf isn’t a household name like Joe Camel, The Kool-Aid Man or his rival, Bud Light’s Spuds MacKenzie. Mr. Spuds gained a ton of popularity in his day and the merchandise items never really went away. Go wander into 90% of antique and vintage shops and you’ll be hard pressed not to find a Spud’s shirt or token to this day. Beer Wolf on the other hand is far more elusive and less of a common mascot, which makes him so much fucking cooler. Plus, he drinks more beer and pulls more babes.
My point in all of this isn’t to compare the two beer-guzzling canines. It’s just a realization that without people sharing these “rare vintage sightings” and making more people aware of this radical bastard, who knows if the people at Coors Light would have shut the door on him forever.
Check out the full line at the link below and tell ’em TNUC sent ya. AHROOoo!!
In the tail end of summer, we decided to move to a new home. The days were getting shorter, early mornings a little drier, and the nights a little crisper. We were all excited to move – we loved it out in Western Massachusetts. From the sleepy old New England towns with a white Georgian steepled church in their center, to the acres upon acres of dense woods and hills that rolled along the forgotten edges. We even loved the old forlorn mill buildings that stood alongside the Housatonic and Connecticut rivers, silently standing beside them like ancient guardians.
No one was more excited than my father. He was a history buff first and foremost. His love of history splintered into so many directions: from antique store explorer to archivist to antiquarian and everything in between. It didn’t stop there – he would even try to integrate the “old ways” into our family lifestyle, and some of that, like the hearth, I remember quite fondly. So, he was naturally excited to be moving into such an historic home. It was an eighteenth-century saltbox colonial, and even that could barely contain his excitement. His smile made the exposed beams running along the ceiling shine and it could have even split apart those wide, gorgeous pine floorboards.
Father became a new man when we moved in. To be fair, it didn’t exactly happen overnight. No, the change was gradual – in fact it seemed to coincide with each dusty box he dragged down to the basement. The change was drip fed with each heirloom, with each antique furnishing, and with each new volume he added to the archives down there. It was almost as if he was rediscovering himself. Rediscovering something lost – box by box. I always wondered what was down in that basement and why my dad seemed so different, but I was never allowed to go down there.
My mother never said a word about any of this. Whenever I would attempt to broach the subject, she would always redirect the conversation to some other topic. But she would give me this look – this knowing look. She knew something but would never say. She was as locked as the cellar door, but that look was a little crack – no wider than the tiny sliver in the cellar door that only let you see the very edge of cobweb draped stairs descending down into pitch blackness.
One day, when we were all eating dinner, father came up from the basement holding a skull and plopped it down on the table where it watched us all eat. My mother gasped in horror, but quickly regained her composure and resumed eating. But, just like her little smile was a tell of some deeper knowledge, I noticed her hands trembling as she held the spoon and shaking as she passed the salad bowl. I kept my eyes glued to my plate, and tried to eat, I really did – but when I would look up that’s all I could see were its hollow eyes staring right back at mother and I.
I knew I couldn’t ask mother about the skull, so I decided to ask my father directly. After dinner I waited until mother was doing the dishes, then ran out to the backyard where he was splitting wood for the evenings fire. My nerves were on high, but I gathered up the courage and asked him anyway. He put down his axe, crouched down to my height and then stared directly into my eyes. Those were not my father’s eyes. All the previous warmth was gone, replaced with a hollowness not unlike the eye sockets of that skull. Then he put his mouth to my ear and whispered, “Tonight, after the toll of dusk’s bell, you may come.”
That night I laid in bed and could not sleep. It was the same for mother, who I could hear sobbing in her room with the door closed. She must have been trying to muffle it by crying into a blanket or pillow so as not to cause me any alarm. But little could she have known I was already awaiting my own invitation to descend the cobweb covered stairs into darkness. Knowing this, her sobbing made me sad, made me feel as if I was opening her wound that much more. The longer I waited, the more the guilt and fear nibbled at my veins. I could only gaze out the window at the deep woods, the rolling hills, the dirt paths to ancient farms, and if I leaned a certain way, I could make out the white Georgian steeple of the old Baptist Church in the town center. Every hour the toll of the bell reverberated through my mind, and throughout this sleepy New England town.
Then as a complete moonless darkness enshrouded the town the church bells tolled for the last time. Dusk’s bell. I didn’t want to go downstairs, but I had to. I recalled the way my father had looked me in the eye as if to say, “this is your one chance, you’re only chance to see the cellar.” I tiptoed down the steps, heart beating so fast that I thought mother might hear or feel the vibrations using that special sense only mother’s have. But she didn’t, and there I was, hand on the cellar door. I lifted the iron latch and pushed it open.
The stairway was surprisingly steep. I had to duck my head as I slowly descended each narrow step, holding onto the railing with one hand and swatting away the ever-present cobwebs with the other. Once downstairs I immediately scoured the ceiling and found a lightbulb with a pull string and turned the lone light on. I was struck by the sheer amount of stuff: there were chair legs coated in decades of dust, and countless molding cardboard boxes scattered about every inch of the floor. The cardboard boxes also encircled the trunks of oak trees that served as the pillars on which the entire house stood. It seemed that father had also given these sturdy oaks a second purpose as names were carved into the trunks, most of which were unfamiliar, but occasionally someone shared my last name or my mother’s maiden name. It made me smile, this was just like dad, a family tree. It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe he was still with us, that this would all pass.
Like all colonial basements the walls were a motley of field stone dug up from the land and dredged from the nearby river valleys, then stuck together with a thick cake of lime and mortar – which had been refilled dozens of times over many generations of leaks and moldy growths. And all along these stone walls were metal shelves which were adorned with a dizzying assortment of paint cans, sealants, primers, grout, polyurethane, coffee cans filled with nails, and so on. Homeowners assortment aside, there were also some real historical treasures strewn about that ranged from yellowing photographs to wooden figurines.
Fascinating as all this was, none of it could explain the changes that had come over my father. His recent behavior had taken a dangerous and eccentric bent that was completely out of character. For instance, he set up cinder blocks in the street to try to divert traffic away from the house. He recently snipped the wires on all the nearby streetlights. Lastly, the father I knew would never have let the weeds and vines overtake the mulch beds to the point where they started to root through the cracks in the patchwork stone foundation. This just simply was not him.
I stood down there for a long time, going through the boxes and marveling at the assorted antiques within. However, as time passed there was a mounting dread slowly accumulating like damp humidity. The air was becoming mustier, moister, thicker. And then I found something that was off. In the dark corner of the cellar, past the oil tank where the light did not reach was an alcove that appeared to be nothing more than a dead spider trap, but as I ran my hand along the cool, damp stones of the wall they suddenly hit splintered wood. I groped around the wood and found a hook lock. I unfastened the hook and pushed open a door. Just then all the remaining light from the room was seemingly sucked into the open doorway like a blackhole. The light whooshed past and briefly illuminated a long hallway in the shape of a T. I could not see around the left and right corners, could not get a sense of how far those hallways went. But against the back wall, right at the epicenter of light with an exposure so high that the image remains burned into my retina to this day was a picture of my father the happiest I had ever seen him. On the day he moved in.
This is why I always say I had two fathers: your grandfather whom you know, and my father who remains brilliantly exposed against the pitch blackness of that forbidden hallway.
*Written by author Michael Neirinckx. TNUC sincerely thanks him for this timely offering. Now I urge you disciples to play the following track from the obscure 1989 horror movie The Cellar while you re-read “The Descent” once more!