Friday, July 07, 2006

A "Fast" Wasteland

(excerpted from my book Early Plastic)

No doubt it was TV series, like "Glamour Girl,"---a 1950s show I was hooked on---that caused a founding father of TV, inventor Lee DeForrest, to write:

"The nation has no soap, but soap opera without end or sense floods each household daily. . . This child of mine has been resolutely kept to the average intelligence of thirteen years."

"Glamour Girl," hosted by Harry Babbitt, a sloe-eyed, former big band singer, was a five-times-a-week daytime show featuring a twist on the premises of two other programs on the air at the time, "Queen for a Day" and "Strike it Rich," that offered prizes of one sort or another to the best hard-luck story of the day. On each episode of "Glamour Girl," three haggard, Ma Kettle-types told why they needed a makeover, and the studio audience would vote with their applause as to which one most deserved to be bottom-to-top cosmeticized. Plus ca change. . fifty years later such gimmicks are still a staple on daytime TV. "Glamour Girl" ended each day with the would-be Galatea from the day before reappearing after the various stylists, couturiers, furriers, and poise experts had wrought their miraculous transformation. To ten-year-old me, it came off like a Grimm's Fairy Tale---only in this case the frog turned into a princess instead of prince. "Glamour Girl" was on during school hours. If I happened to catch it while I was home malingering with some feigned mild illness, which was oft my wont, I would watch it, get hooked, and then had to stay home the next day to see what the woman from the day befor looked like after her transformation. And the next and the next and the next. . .. For my younger readers, this was, of course, several decades prior to the invention of the vhs.

Film critic Roger Ebert tells a similar story about his childhood; only, in a truly perverse twist, he was hooked on the radio version of the show. Thank god the TV version was cancelled after only a few months, otherwise I might have been trapped in Glamour Girl-land forever. Besides, I should have been outside doing something butch and constructive, such as learning to throw a ball like a boy instead of a girl.

Henceforth, most of the posts on this blog will occur, M,W,F, SAT.

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