Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Finding Oklahoma: Toy Museum

 Normally, my travels take me across Oklahoma but occasionally I venture past state lines and into the abyss.  When I make these journeys I try to keep an eye out for any signs of Okie influence on these strange new locales.  Such a thing occurred recently when I found myself in the retiree tourist mecca known as Branson, MO.

Road after road, block after block, the city is an explosion of Baby Boomer nostalgia along with the best live entertainment the 1970s had to offer.  Travelers have a variety of options for spending their money and/or wasting their time but it was the World's Largest Toy Museum that caught my eye. 

So I stopped in with the primary objective being to kill some time with a strong, secondary objective of seeing if I could get a blog post out of it by finding anything related to Oklahoma within its colorful walls.  Let's see how I did.

Various Gene Autry Stuff

The Oklahoma Singing Cowboy has an entire city named after him in the southern part of the state and a museum dedicated to him within it filled with memorabilia.  He wasn't shy about licensing his name or likeness (and his descendants seemed to be plenty happy to keep that train rolling) so there's no surprise that plenty of his playthings ended up here.  There's a game, book and wallet in this pic but there were plenty other specimens on display that would have delighted young cowpokes back in the day.

Various Dick Tracy Stuff

The Legendary lawman was created by Pawnee, OK native Chester Gould and just like we saw at Dick Tracy's Headquarters in that little town, there are plenty of pieces from the past that celebrate the top cop's legacy.  And while Tracy's heyday may have been the 40s and 50s, he had a big resurgence in the 90s when the Warren Beatty movie came out.  There was a good mix of old and slightly less old stuff on display here.

Chuck Norris Karate Kommando Action Figure

Karate was big in the 80s and so were Saturday morning cartoons.  Combining them was a no-brainer and high-kicking movie hero (and Ryan, OK native) Chuck Norris fit the genre perfectly.  His animated series involved an (only slightly more) cartoony version of himself leading a poorly drawn team of action heroes against bland bad guys.  Back then any halfway decent cartoon got their own toy line and kids rejoiced at the opportunity to have their very own pocket-sized Chuck. 

Richie Cunningham Mego

In its prime, "Happy Days" was Americana incarnate.  Its popularity guaranteed the arrival of plenty of merch on the shelves like these Mego figures.  I couldn't tell you if these are originals or more modern reproductions but you can clearly see all-American teenager Richie Cunningham right in the middle of the action where he should be.  Of course, he was played by Duncan, OK native Ron Howard whose likeness on the doll is...eh...not as bad as it could be.  Note his steely-eyed confidence even though he's flanked on both sides by a shirtless Fonzie and a shirtless Ralph Malph.  Don't ask me what the story is here.

Lily Sloane Action Figure

Lily Sloane helped the Star Trek crew defeat the Borg in one of the least disliked Star Trek movies ever.  And of course she was played by Tulsa native Alfre Woodard who went toe-to-toe with Patrick Stewart in the scifi adventure.  The museum had a big Star Trek section and this figure stood out to me amongst the many Picards and Datas in their different outfits.

The museum had several buildings in their complex and more toys than you could count.  But with a little effort it's always possible to find a little piece of Oklahoma in the mix.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Frosted Flake


Tiger King cereal...what took them so long?  Regardless, it looks like it was time to cash in on the Netflix adventures of Oklahoma's wackiest zoo owner/gubernatorial candidate.  At a thirteen dollar price point, these are meant as more of a collectible than as a part of a balanced breakfast but it's not going to stop me from eating them.  

These are brought to you by the folks at FYE, which seems to be a company that snatches up licenses and cranks out various collectibles and food tie-ins.  They have some Tiger King sauces and whatnot that I plan to track down at some point too.  But today I'm focused on the most important meal of the day.  And the most important part of breakfast is reading the back of the cereal box.

Like the best cereal boxes, there are plenty of games and puzzles to keep you occupied while crunching on your morning entree.  Highlights from the Word Search include "Narcissism," "Cult," and "Oklahoma."   Joe Exotic's nemesis Carole Baskin gets a shout out in the maze, elevating her to the same status as Cap'n Crunch's enemies, the "Soggies."  Lastly, there's a short Mad Libs you can waste your time on if you're a really slow eater.

But how does it taste?  Eh.  It's essentially Frosted Flakes but maybe not quite as...good?  I suppose that's a subliminal way to keep the tiger motif going.  Of course, as a collectible, this is more likely to be on a shelf for several years (and then thrown away) rather than being consumed while watching (or streaming, I guess) Saturday morning reality shows.  

That being said, is this just the beginning?  Are we on the verge of an avalanche of Tiger King foodstuffs?  I can already envision a line of mulletted, mustachioed jams and jellies.   

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Memory Lane

 The town of Enid, Oklahoma is proud of their public art.  Street after street, block after blocked is dotted with statues, sculptures and highly detailed murals celebrating the town and the people in it.  But there's one mural in particular that reaches past local culture and into the collective madness that was the 80s.  Behold the grandeur:


This eye-catching beauty was created by Enid artist Tox Murillo in 2020 and is packed with details about the often misunderstood decade.  So just for fun, I thought I'd point out a few of my favorite touches in this magnum opus.

Song Lyrics

First up we've got the most famous phone number in music history as heard in the 1981 song "867-5309/Jenny" by Tommy Tutone.  There are multiple stories of the origins of the number but the general consensus is that the songwriter just made it up.  For years unfortunate folks who happen to have that number in various area codes were on the receiving end of endless prank phone calls asking for "Jenny."  If you dial 405-876-5309 or 918-876-5309 who would you get?  I don't know but it's probably best to leave them alone.

Floating above E.T. and Eliot you'll see a red balloon with the number 99 one it as an homage 1983's "99 Luftballons" by German band Nena.  The song is about a misunderstanding leading to an overzealous military reaction which is somewhat similar to what happens in E.T., right?  (It's been awhile.)

To the right of the balloon are lyrics from the 1987 song "Beds Are Burning" by the Australian band Midnight Oil.  It's about the poor treatment of Aboriginals by the Australian government.  This being Oklahoma, it's not a far walk to relate it to the state's treatment of Indigenous peoples.   

Copper Bones Key from Goonies

From the private collection of Chester Copperpot comes this spooky artifact from 1p85's The Goonies.  If I remember correctly, it was supposed to do something useful but ended up springing a booby trap for the gang on their way to discovering One Eye'd Willie's treasure.  The prop was so popular that you can know find replicas for sale all over the internet.  

Anachronistic Yoda

My only (very minor) quibble with the artwork is this rendition of our boy Yoda.  The reference photo the artist worked off of is from one of the prequels, which were well past the 1980s timeframe of the mural.  In the 80s, Yoda was all Muppet but by the early 2000s he had morphed into Ass-Kicking CGI Superhero™️ as seen in this pose.  Don't get me wrong though, I'll take any Yoda over no Yoda ten times out of ten.

Video Game Characters

I'm not a video game guy.  In fact, my knowledge and interest in video games probably began and ended with these two guys.  There were a few different designs of Pac-Man back in the day including the "Pie Chart" design and that weird one where he kind of looked like one of his ghost antagonists except with feet.  The design seen here is definitely my favorite because it reminds me of an old gum ball machine I had as a kid.

And, or course, we get peak Mario in all his 8-bit glory.  There have probably been a 100 Mario games since this one but none of them had anywhere near the cultural impact as this one.

And the rest...

I've only scratched the surface of the fun stuff going on in this artwork.  Whether it's Daniel Striped Tiger or Skeletor or the Miyagi-Do logo, the talent of the artist comes across as much as the fun that we all had back then.  The next time you find yourself in Enid, stop by and check it out.  

Friday, June 4, 2021

Top 5 at the Twister Museum


There are several contenders for "Great Oklahoma Films" but nothing holds a more special place in my wind swept, debris-strewn heart more than the 1996 F-5 of a film, Twister!  It was filmed primarily in Oklahoma with a few scenes showcasing the town of Wakita.  And that's where the Twister Movie Museum has been ever since.  

Since this year is the 25th anniversary of the film, I thought it was time to go back for a visit for the first time in several years.  And since I was there, why not pick another Top 5 List?

5.  Twister Pinball Machine

This eye-catching piece is near the entrance and sets the tone for visitors.  I would have it much higher on the list but it's not functional.  Which is a shame, because you just know it had plenty of movie sound effects like wind, shouting and maybe that evil weatherman getting his face smashed in and whatnot.  For now, we'll just have to imagine.

4.  Twister the Ride Smashed Penny

Anybody that knows me knows that I love to smash a penny or two.  While the museum doesn't have its own penny smashing machine, it does have this smashed beauty from Universal Studios' Twister ride.  They shut the ride down in 2015 but it's nice to have a tiny little memento from it on display.

3.  Twister Trading Cards

The main reason I included these is because I'm constantly looking for them on eBay and can never find them.  They're a throwback to the days when just about everything got their own collectible trading card set regardless of their level of success or popularity.  I'd still like to pick some up if I ever see them in the wild, if only to finally get ahold of that Philip Seymour Hoffman rookie card.

2.  Twister Storyboards 

The makers of the film donated several items to the museum from the production including several storyboards.  It's a nice way to see what they envisioned for a few scenes and shows some of the talent involved in movie making before they ever start rolling cameras.  

1.  Dorothy

Yep, there she is.  The most famous Oklahoma movie prop is front and center when you walk in.  There were a few Dorothys used by our ragtag weathermen heroes and several Dorothy props made for the film.  The nice museum lady said this was the "Damaged Dorothy" and was used for scenes when the old girl took a beating.  

Nothing beats a small town, roadside museum and there's nothing better than a small town with a cool gimmick.  The Twister Movie Museum combines the best of both.  And as an added bonus, here's another visitor I spotted who showed up for the 25th Anniversary:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The League of Extraordinary Oklahomans

 Years ago, in a magical time known as the 80s, there was a popular toy line of tiny pink monsters, wrestlers, robots and weirdos known as M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.  They were small, collectible and, best of all, fun!  I used to have a big bucketful of them and made them take part in legendary battles in the sandbox.

Since everything old is new again, the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures of the past seem to have been the inspiration for O.K.I.E.S. figures of today.  

 Made by Flying Rabbit Studios, these little guys are made in the image of some of the most famous real Oklahomans as well as a few larger than life Okie statues.  Let's take a look at the line up of the "Stay Gold" edition:

Golden Driller - "Petroleum Protector"

You'll recognize this guy as the guardian of the Tulsa Expo Center.  He's become a symbol of the state and the impact the oil and gas industry has had on it as well as a popular roadside icon that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Bass Reeves - "The Real Lone Ranger"

Born a slave, Bass Reeves became one of the most legendary lawmen of the wild west by bringing thousands of criminals to justice.  His heroic efforts have been claimed to be the inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

Will Rogers - "OK's Favorite Son"

Actor, writer, and overall comedic performer Will Rogers is next.  Rogers may be the most famous celebrity to come out of the Sooner State.  Whenever you have some free time, drive across the state and count how many buildings, roads and institutions are named after him.

Wiley Post - "Pioneer of Aviation"

 "Adventurer" is probably the best description of Wiley Post.  He's best known for working in the wild blue yonder and is seen here wearing the pressure suit that he frequently wore on high altitude flights. 

Buck Atom - "Space Cowboy 66"

Tulsa's own roadside rocket man rounds out the list.  The former muffler man was installed along Route 66 a few years back and his distinctive design and accompanying gift shop has been a Mother Road "must-stop" ever since.

Not a bad lineup, huh?  I'm 100% on board with these little guys and am holding out hope for a Saturday morning cartoon series, additional actions figure waves (I've heard rumblings about a Belle Starr figure) including play sets and vehicles and, of course, a breakfast cereal.  Anything less is unacceptable.  Make it happen, Universe! 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Ask Jeeves

Previously: "An Idiot Abroad" Comes to Oklahoma

In 2008 British actor and comedian Stephen Fry decided to hop in his London cab and drive across America, seeing all 50 states in the process.  That was the premise of the BBC mini-series "Stephen Fry in America."  When he reached the middle of the country (around the middle of the series) he took some time to explore Oklahoma City.

His first stop was at the Oklahoma City Salvation Army where he discussed the every-growing need for the charitable organization.  Speaking with some of the staff, he learned how common it was becoming for their assistance to be sought by families in the area.

A tour of the Salvation Army facilities was given by "Heidi" who had another gig that led to Stephen's next stop.  I'm not exactly sure which restaurant this is but the outside boldly proclaims "Shishkabob Restaurant."

Honestly I'm not positive if that's the name of the place or just part of the advertising.  I Googled and couldn't find a place called "Shishkabob" and I guess I'm too culinary boring to have eaten there.   But "Heidi the Salvation Army Lady" has been there and made a special appearance performing a belly dancing routine.

She breaks down some of the misconceptions of the art with Stephen and does plenty of demonstrations of the dance involving swords, gyrations and whatnot.   She also explains the distinctions between belly dancing and exotic dancing and where exactly patrons should place their tips on her person.  So...you know...pretty educational.

Next up: it's rodeo time!  It's not specifically mentioned which rodeo this is or if Stephen is still in Oklahoma City but he continues to maintain the "stranger in a strange land" fascination with what us locals might consider to be mundane.  

The focus of interest on this rodeo wasn't bronc busting or bull riding but on mutton busting.  A few rides were shown with determined tykes bound to stay on their steeds.  I can imagine the British TV audience scratching their heads in bewilderment.  

And that was all the time that could be spent in the Sooner State.  Stephen headed down south to Texas next to explore the Houston socialite scene.  With only six hour-long episodes, there wasn't a lot of time to stay in one place but I think some Okie pride came across to folks across the pond.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I Think the Wrong Guy is on This Mural in Ada

Okay, this one takes a little bit of explaining.  If you visit the "Arts District" of Ada, Oklahoma you'll notice a couple of murals in town that celebrate the artists who came from the area.  Actors, musicians, writers and other creative types are grouped together on a few buildings.  Here's the one I'm interested in today:

Take a look at the guy second from left.  He's credited as "Tom Allard."  Recognize him?  Tom Allard is a very tall actor from either Ada or Big Cabin, depending on who you ask.  There's not a lot of information on him online.  Here's one of the few pics I was able to find of him:

Big guy, right?  That's him with Kathleen Turner in the 1991 film "V.I. Warshawski."  She's not exactly short herself so you can tell he's a tall drink of water.  His height has led to being cast as tough guys, enforcers and just generally intimidating characters.

But it's also led to being cast as monsters, aliens and whatnot.  He had a recurring role on a a "Land of the Lost" reboot in the 90s as a great big Dino-Man.  He also played a tall alien in the 1991 film "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey."

Put aside the lingering butt shot for now (if you can).  Does anyone in that clip look familiar?  Keep in mind, our Oklahoma guy Allard is inside the alien suit.  Let's take a closer look at the mural:

Looks like the Grim Reaper character from the movie, right?  But he was played by New York native William Sadler.  So what's going on here?  Here's my theory:

The artist needed visual references for all the people he was painting.  Remember how I said there wasn't a lot of info about Allard online?  I found maybe two pics of him and neither we of any quality.  So I'm thinking the artist looked up Allard's credits, saw that he was in the Bill & Ted movie and then mistook Sadler's "Death" character as Allard.  (Death is very tall in the film.  The actor is probably wearing lifts so that he can loom over Bill & Ted.)

So we've got the wrong guy on the mural, right?  What do we do about it?  Anything?  Probably can't repaint the whole thing and just painting over the one guy might look weird.  I say we leave it and we have ourselves a brand new roadside attraction!  Your thoughts?