Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

Boomers Say a Fond Goodbye to More Icons of the Era

This past week two bright lights of boomer pop culture were extinguished. Both were women whose names were hardly household words in the lives of boomers, yet boomers definitely knew of their work: Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson; and Margaret Vinci Heldt, the creator of the Beehive hairdo.

Janet Waldo 1920-2016
Janet Waldo broke into acting as a teenager with bits parts in films like What a Life (1939) and on radio shows throughout the 1940s. In 1943 she became the star of the radio show, Meet Corliss Archer, playing the role of the title character, a 15 year old girl-next-door. Her teenage girl roles would follow her throughout her career. She went on to appear on radio shows including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and more than 100 animated and TV shows, including I Love Lucy (1952), The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and Get Smart (1966), to name only a few.

Janet Waldo became best-known to boomers as the voice of animated characters, most notably, Judy Jetson in the original The Jetsons TV show (1962). The animated show ran one season, but remained in syndication through 1983. In 1985 new episodes were created, then a TV movie, Rockin’ With Judy Jetson — with Janet as Judy — debuted in 1988. She reprised her role as Judy Jetson in Jetsons: The Movie (1990), but after her part was recorded, she was replaced by Tiffany when the studio decided the pop star would help the movie at the box office. She was quoted as saying she was hurt by the slight, and felt it was disloyal of Hanna-Barbera. Yet she expressed her gratitude for the relationship she had had with the studio and continued to work.

Throughout the the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s, Janet continued to lend her voice to cartoons. Among boomer favorite shows where she voiced a character were: The Atom Ant Show (1965); as mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople on The Flintstones; as Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races (1968); and Josie McCoy in Josie and the Pussycats (1970).

Her last credit was a voice role on an episode of King of the Hill in 1998. At 96 years old, Janet was the last surviving cast member of the original Jetsons. For boomers everywhere, she will always be Judy Jetson to us.

Margaret Vinci Heldt 1918- 2016
The world will remember Margaret Vinci Heldt for giving us the Beehive hairdo. She broke into the hairdressing industry in the late 1930, and by the 1950s, had her own hair salon — Margaret Vinci Coiffures — on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. She won the National Coiffure Championship in 1954, and through her industry accolades, was asked to contribute to Modern Beauty Shop Magazine on many occasions. In 1960, the magazine wanted to talk about the new decade and what hairstyles might look like, so they asked Margaret to come up with something new and different. Popular hairstyles in the 1950s were dominated by the Pageboy, Flip and French twist, so Margaret wondered if it was time to try something on top of the head. She said she was inspired by a pillbox hat that she owned. She had always wanted to create a hairstyle that the hat could be worn with, so the Beehive was born.

The new ‘do caught on in a big way throughout the early-to-mid 1960s with young film stars and top music stars, including Brigitte Bardot, Priscila Presley, the Ronettes, Audrey Hepburn, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and many more. After disappearing for a while, the hairdo is popular with celebrities once again. We have seen the B-52s (of course), Marge Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Adele, Katy Perry, the late Amy Winehouse and many others, all sporting versions of the Beehive.

Mister Boomer enjoyed the Jetsons, but has to admit he wasn’t a great fan of the Judy Jetson character. George, Rosie and Astro were his favorite characters. Through the years, though, he certainly learned to admire the vocal greats of the era, especially the female greats like Janet Waldo and June Foray.

As to the Beehive, Mister Boomer has first-hand recollection. Not only did his mother don a Beehive in the 1960s, he had several cousins who also wore the ‘do in their high school pictures. Early boomers were teenagers when the Beehive appeared, so the timing was right for boomer girls to grab onto the latest hair fashions. As such, Mister B recalls the neighborhood girl who often babysat for Mister B and his siblings perpetually wore a Beehive; the hairdo just fit certain people or personalities. Though Mister B knew his cousins without their high school Beehives for decades after, the babysitter will forever be frozen in time with shellacked hair rising above her head.

What memories of Judy Jetson or Beehive hairdos do you have, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comment (1)

Boomers Will Recall 1966

Hey, boomers! By now most of us have made our peace with the fact that we’ve been around for more than a half century; The oldest boomers will turn 70 this year, while the youngest will reach 52. A lot has changed in the past 50 years, and misterboomer.com has discussed many of these changes through the years. Now let’s take a look back at the way we lived 50 years ago. Set your Wayback Machines to the year 1966 and let’s take a look at what was going on in April, May and June of that year…

On the Domestic Front
• Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.
• The Uniform Time Act was signed by the president, which simplified how daylight saving time was applied (April 13).
• U.S. population surpassed 190 million.
• The median income was $7,400, but more women were returning to the workforce, which helped boost household income by another $2,000. By 1967, 35% of women were working compared with 23% in 1957.
• The average price of a gallon of gas was 32¢.
•  The average price of a new home was $22,300, but on the resale market, the average was $14,200.
• The Supreme Court ruled that police must inform suspects of their rights upon arrest — known ever since as Miranda rights (June 13).
• Ronald Reagan became the governor of California (June 7).
• The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded (June 30).

• 250,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam, including many early boomers (April 29).
• Anti-war protests were increasing. In May, tens of thousands protested at the White House and the subsequent rally at the Washington Monument (May 15).
• U.S. planes began bombing Hanoi (June 29).

• Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde was released (May 16, though not advertised until June 25); completing his trilogy of rock albums, starting with Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (1966). Two songs from the album became top-twenty singles hits: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and I Want You. Well received in 1966, Rolling Stone magazine named it number nine on its list of  The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Pet Sounds was released by The Beach Boys (May 16). Unlike Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, it received a lukewarm reception. It was heralded as the first rock concept album, even though it does not have a predetermined narrative. It is cited as the beginning of the psychedelic era, and took rock from music to be danced to, to music for listening. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named it number two on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Hit singles from the album included Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows.

Space Race
• Russia’s Luna 10 successfully orbited the moon (April10), becoming the moon’s first artificial satellite.
• In the Gemini IX program, Gene Cernan became the second U.S. astronaut to perform a space walk (June 5). His extravehicular activities were supposed to include some work, and planned to expand NASA’s knowledge before a moon launch. But a bloated and torn spacesuit, darkness and a fogged visor prevented him from doing much but float around, as his U.S. and Soviet predecessors had done before him. Nevertheless, he logged two hours and ten minutes outside his spacecraft. Cernan later became the last man to walk on the moon in the Apollo 17 mission (December 19, 1972).

• Many fashion historians believe 1966 was the pivotal moment in which styles of the 1950s were replaced with those of the 1960s.
•  The shiny vinyl look for boots, hats and rain gear was trending. Flowers and patterned shirts and pants were in vogue for men and women,
• The mini skirt, popularized by Mary Quant in 1965, reached peak popularity.

Mister Boomer had one more year of elementary school before entering high school. He was aware of much of what was going on in the country and the world by then: his class had written letters to relatives of classmates sent to Vietnam; he watched every space launch and followed newspaper stories about the Space Race; he heard the popular music of the day on his transistor radio, and Brother Boomer bought both Dylan’s Rainy Day Women and The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice on 45 RPM records. Nonetheless, it was a time for Mister B to still be a kid. That summer his family would take a cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park in their 1966 Ford.

Fifty years ago, 1966 was a pot on the stove on the verge of boiling over. The clash between generations was growing, and boomers were about to play a major role in politics, civil rights, fashion and music.

What do you recall about 1966, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Music,Pop Culture History,Space and have Comments Off on Boomers Will Recall 1966

Boomers Grew With Their Closets

Mister Boomer’s “closet system” came crashing down this past week in one tremendous snap, crackle, pop event. The plastic clips supporting the wire shelving became brittle over two decades of service, and, combined with the cumulative weight of twenty years of clothing, had sustained all they could stand.

Mister Boomer is not a hoarder, but like many boomers, he never wanted to toss something that still had potential for a useful life. This experience, however, displayed in graphic form that it was time for Mister B to take a look at the collection that filled his closet, and cull the herd lest the replacement shelving also meet an untimely, early demise.

While mulling which garments had won the restocking pool, Mister B came across some of his vintage clothing that harken back to boomer days of yore. One thing became abundantly clear in the light of day, though, and that was that items made in the 1950s and ’60s still held their style and grace, while those of the 1980s and ’90s were totally lame, dude. Those johnny-come-latelys would have to go. Mister B doesn’t have an extensive collection of Boomer Age shirts, but does have a couple of note:

Banded bottom shirt. Mister B has one dating from the late sixties. His circle knew them as “baseball shirts” even though in style they more resembled the shape of Eisenhower jackets than the two-tone long or short sleeve “baseball shirt” that has become so ubiquitous in our casual culture. Mister B picked it up in a vintage shop in the early ’80s when the nostalgia of his 1950s and ’60s upbringing swept over him, but hardly ever wore it because it just wasn’t in the best colors and was not that attractive a garment. Banded bottom shirts first appeared in the late 1950s and had their heyday in the 1960s. After a brief departure they returned for a while in the 1980s in slightly altered form. Mister B plans on returning it from whence it came, and will see if he can sell it at a vintage shop.

Iridescent shirt. Sharkskin fabric, so called because the weaving of contrasting thread colors produced a shimmering, iridescent effect, debuted in the high fashion of the 1950s, particularly for men’s suits and women’s dresses. It attained wide appeal in the 1960s for men’s and women’s clothing, then made its way to ready-to-wear. Mister Boomer once had a sharkskin suit, and loved it (Read: Our Sunday Best for Easter), so the opportunity to obtain a shirt (was it the 1970s or ’80s when he acquired it?) was welcomed. Mister B still likes the sharkskin, so he is unsure of the shirt’s future.

Mister Boomer has previously written about how boomers have witnessed the growth of closet space (Boomers and Closet Space: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya). Little did we know that we would need the expanding closet to hold not only our personal definition of the latest in wearables (adjusted for current body shape, of course), but also for the myriad of items that have made the long, strange trip with us.

For many boomers, value and thrift go hand in hand, so parting is a sweet sorrow we don’t look kindly upon. The older Mister B is getting, the more he finds he’d like to wear the clothing he fondly remembers. Maybe it’s a case of wanting the outside appearance to reflect the inside-his-head age? Who knows … What he needs to figure out now is whether there is enough space to add a freestanding wardrobe in his room.

How about it, boomers? Do you still have clothing remembrances of your salad days? Do they fit and do you wear them? And what does it mean for your closet space?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Getting Older,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Boomers Grew With Their Closets

Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion

While riding public transportation this week, Mister Boomer had a flashback when he spied a teenage girl sitting across from him. She was wearing blue jeans that tapered down her legs to her shoes, but what stood out was, in winter weather no less, her right knee protruded through a lateral cut in the garment’s leg.

Denim had a reputation for being a strong and durable fabric that made it popular for work clothes for people doing manual labor in the late 1800s, especially farming and mining. After WW II, suburbs were created to house the growing Baby Boom and some men brought their denim farm wear with them. Denim jeans began to be manufactured for women in the late 1950s as the wearing of jeans as casual wear slowly increased. But it was the movies of the 1950s that caught the eye of Baby Boomers and started the ball rolling for jeans to become the ultimate fabric of our lives. [Read Mister B’s take on the history: Tangled Up in Blue (Jeans)].

Mister Boomer recalls getting his first jeans as a pre-teen in the early 1960s. He remembers that jeans were reserved for play wear, as there were definite differences between work, play and Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes that were reserved for church, weddings, funerals and important business meetings. Yet even at play, should extra wear or a tear appear in our jeans, our mothers would see to it that the clothes were repaired or replaced, lest they be thought of as unfit mothers. The idea that a girl or boy with a tear in their jeans that extended the width of a knee could leave the house without their mother stopping them was unheard of. A tear in a pocket could result in darning the offending hole with matching thread. A tear in a knee might require a patch, which could be a scrap of older jean fabric sewn over the tear, or, since our moms wanted to keep up with the time-saving inventions of the modern age, an iron-on patch. These patches were rounded-corner rectangles consisting of a thin blue fabric that was made stiff by a coating on the back. The patch was placed over a tear or hole and a hot iron was pressed on it to heat the coating — an adhesive — that would attach to the jeans as it cooled.

Mister Boomer hated those patches for several reasons. First, it marked the wearer’s family as poorer than other families who could afford new jeans; second, the patches were almost always darker than the pants fabric, making the patch stick out like a sore thumb; and third, it was immensely annoying to Mister B that the patch corners — even though rounded — tended to break free and curl after a few wearings and washings.

Mister B thinks it was The Summer of Love –1967– that marked the unofficial coronation of blue jeans as the chosen garment of a new generation. Slowly but surely jeans — bell bottom styles by that time — were worn more often and accepted in more places. Inevitably, wear and tear started to appear. Boomers solved the dilemma by covering tears and holes with embroidered fabric patches. American flags, oval peace symbols, flowers, butterflies, psychedelic op art, marijuana imagery, motorcycle and rock band circle and square patches could not only extend the life of their jeans, but up the cool factor. The patches were an individualization that often represented a statement against the Establishment or a solidarity with the working class.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that large groups of young people started intentionally wearing torn or ripped jeans as the fashion culture borrowed a Bohemian style. Jeans that had a lived in, distressed and even torn look became high-priced fashion items in their own right. The trend faded slightly in the 1990s, but resurfaced in the 2000s, now becoming a regular part of young people’s wardrobes as “artistically” and “strategically” cut, ripped and torn jeans are worn by fashion models, celebrities and high school students alike.

So here we are, back to the girl with the knee sticking out of her torn jeans and Mister Boomer’s flashback. He couldn’t help but wonder how much she had paid for that expert tear, and what her mother thought of them.

Did you personalize your jeans with patches, boomers? Were you covering up holes or making a statement?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History and have Comments (2)

Boomers and Closet Space: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya

As new houses were built in each decade since the 1900s, square footage increased … and with it, closet space. Mister Boomer has talked about the changes square footage made in housing in the fifties though the seventies (Boomers in the House: Square Footage Changes With the Generations). Now he’d like to focus on one element of the search for space: the closet.

In houses that were built in the 1940s and ’50s, the average closet was a three by three foot square, with a two foot door that closed. Prior to 1940, houses were often built without closets at all. Up until World War II, people had very little need for more closet space as the average person had two changes of clothing, plus one set of Sunday Best clothes for church visits, weddings and funerals. Mister Boomer recalls his grandmother saying that during the Depression, clothing was patched and sewn repeatedly because money for new clothing was not available. His great aunt was the seamstress in the family, and made most of his father’s clothing in that time.

By the 1940s, things began to change. Perhaps the self-expression by fashion of the upper class 1920s Flapper Era found its way down the economic chain by then, or maybe the choice of fashionable clothes began to be more readily available and affordable for blue collar workers. In any case, younger people started to accumulate more clothing than their parents, or what they had as children.

Some say that after the War new parents, swept up in the optimism of the era, were primed to spoil their Boomer Generation kids. Yet many boomers will say their wardrobes were kept to a minimum until they started working and earning their own money. Nonetheless, boomers grew up with a larger wardrobe than their parents, and new houses reflected that fact by providing the closet storage space.

Like many other boomers, Mister Boomer shared a bedroom, and therefore a closet, with his brother. A round wooden pole that stretched across the back of the closet was all the space the two boomer boys had for hanging parochial-school and Sunday Best shirts and pants, but it was sufficient. Each had a dresser that stored socks and underwear, sweaters and casual shirts that did not have collars or buttons.

Once Brother Boomer was in high school and started working, he expanded his wardrobe, taking most of the closet space. About a year or two after Mister B began working, his brother had moved out, so the whole closet was his. Over the course of his college years, little by little he filled it. However, in Mister B’s defense, it wasn’t that he kept buying more and more as much as it was that he refused to get rid of anything that he found still wearable.

Mister B recalls that in his college years of the 1970s, there were many people who wore the same clothes repeatedly, some day after day, like a uniform. Certainly that was the case for jeans, if not shirts. Mister Boomer had two pair of jeans that he could rotate as needed, but clearly remembers a young lady who wore a pair of jeans with a butterfly patch on her back right pocket. Mister Boomer noticed that butterfly every day for an entire semester.

Forty-plus years later, Mister Boomer finds he and his wife, living in a building built during the Boomer Era, are in desperate need of closet space, not only for clothing but for the vast accumulation of other things one acquires through the ages. Unfortunately, Mister B carries very few articles of clothing from his prime boomer days, having long physically outgrown them. A while back he instituted a policy of zero population growth — nothing goes into the closet unless something is removed — but lately he is thinking that perhaps it’s time to jettison the apparel from the 1980s and ’90s. These styles can’t possibly compare with those of the 1960s and ’70s in quality and appearance, but yet they are still serviceable and old habits die hard.

Should Mister B purge himself of these older garments, he thinks the closet he has — a trifle larger than the one he had as a child — should more than suffice. He is painfully aware, however, that younger people born a generation or two later than the boomers would not agree.

How about it, boomers? Should we lead the way, stating less is more and therefore more closet space is an unnecessary indulgence, or go with the flow and say, when it comes to closet space, the bigger the better?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Boomers and Closet Space: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya