Special treat this year. I spent a long time gathering the elusive Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades into one powerful Infinity Gauntlet, but it turned out I had one gem in my possession all along. I was digging through my dad's vast VHS archives when, shock of all shocks, I lifted from a damp box the 1986 Macy's. In EP!
I never knew it was there, because I never had a reason to believe it was....Dad never taped the Macy's Parade. I long ago asked if he had any parades, and he said he didn't (guess he didn't remember this one). And I believed him because with the exception of local Rose Festival parades, he had no real interest. Except in the year 1986, when he taped the Macy's parade, the Smurfs and Chipmunks Christmas specials, and the Hollywood Christmas Parade, in one glorious six-hour chunk with not a single ad left out. I don't know why it exists, I'm just happy it does.
This also meant that, for once, all the affilate spots I see will actually be from Portland, instead of from Bumpkin Flats, Arkansas. ...Unfortunately, I've now learned the dream wasn't as important as I thought. The Macy's Parade typically only contains two minutes of local advertising per half-hour (this is still the case today) and many of the local spots repeat. So in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter where I traded the discs from. Although there was ONE instance where having a Portland recording paid off. You'll see what I mean later.
The hosts have varied wildly over the years. Typically they are anchors or actors plucked from NBC's workforce as one of their many shameless corporate tie-ins. This time? The guy behind the mike was Pat Sajak, best known for a syndicated game show that could be on NBC, ABC or CBS depending on your market. Pat DID have his own talk show at one point, but I'm not sure if it was on NBC or if it had even happened yet. Sharing co-hosting and street-level improptu interview duties is Stepfanie Kramer, marking a second Parade for her after a 1984 debut. Kramer is all smiles here, in stark contrast to the hardboiled cop she was playing on NBC's Hunter. It's weird to see, not unlike seeing any video of Stephanie Beatriz where she's not playing Rosa.
Stephanie Beatriz switching her voice in Rosas in a matter of seconds, a talented woman pic.twitter.com/YJnuHsJqJf
mdash& SPOOKlyn nine nine (@b99detectives) July 31, 2018
Rare is a Macy's Parade where at least one of the balloons doesn't have inflation issues or sag in parts, especially during the 80s when helium hadn't been perfected yet. This year, there is something wrong with almost EVERY balloon. Try to spot the mistakes!
|One cool thing about this edition of the Macy's Parade: it wasn't an anniversary year, but they filled airtime with plenty of footage from parades gone past, for no other reason I can think of than it looked cool. I hope Youtube doesn't copyright-flag this video for the use of "Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight."
|One of the celebrity guests this year was Phyllis Diller, who Kramer interviews on the street while she's preparing to board her float in the role of Mother Goose. She holds up a rubber chicken and declares he's her escort. Stepfanie points out that's the wrong species of bird, as well as the wrong organic material. "That's the last time I use that dating service," cackles Diller. I guess it's the best material we could expect from her this early in the morning.
|Don Bluth's An American Tail holds the honor of being one of the only non-Disney animated films produced between 1965 and 1995 that contains a comprehensible plot. It was a huge deal in '86 and it lit a fire under Disney's bum, forcing them to get serious about animation again and make the New Renaissance happen. That holiday season McDonalds was selling their gift certificates in felt stockings with Fievel on them. The pitch worked on my mom, and we all got them for Christmas. I still have mine.
|This dumb parent deserves everything she's about to get for serving a toddler dinner in an airplane-shaped tray. What'd she think would happen? And she learns nothing, for she feeds him the next day in a tray shaped like a car.
I don't have much to say about the pre-parade nonsense, because as I've repeated several times, I don't care for it. The "Mocko Jumbi Dancers" deserve a mention though. Hailing from the US Virgin Islands, they're five people dressed like Christmas tree garland on foot-high stilts. Despite their constraining getup and precarious footwear, they manage to dance to a Jamaican-sounding ditty like it's natural. I couldn't do that, nor would I try.
Kramer has a chat with Ed Begley Jr, star of St. Elsewhere. She remarks that he must be "risking his entire medical career for one morning of parade thrills," implying the Macy's Parade takes place in the Tommy Westphall Universe. Then Begley Jr. takes the mike and talks with a marching band member from Fort Mill, South Carolina, implying Fort Mill, South Carolina is entirely in Tommy's head.
Ed talks with the marcher: "You know, I've heard your band, I think it's wonderful, and I'm thinking of a screenplay for you -- I have it in my room, it's about a young gymnast, and I think you're perfect." He directs the camera back to Pat, who chuckles while remarking "The old 'I have a screenplay in my room' ploy! Ha ha." In 1986 Sajak could make that joke on a G-rated family parade surrounded by clowns and Care Bear costumes. Today it would be the absolute end of his career. The outrage thinkpieces would number in the hundreds within 24 hours, Wheel of Fortune would be cancelled immediately, and he'd get a tweet from the President calling him a "wonderful man."
Who's on the turkey this year? It's the Rapunzel-maned Crystal Gayle, singing her rendition of "Winter Wonderland." No one saddles the turkey anymore; he always appears by his lonesome now.
I'm still in disbelief that a cartoon character as low-ranking as Olive Oyl got a balloon. I'm even more flabbergasted to find out she got TWO. This is a revised version of what we saw in the 1983 parade, where she's in a slightly different pose and carrying Swee'Pea, who was a baby Popeye often had to rescue from danger in his later shorts. Swee'Pea cartoons were kind of a milder version of the Baby Herman shorts in Roger Rabbit. As a kid I assumed Popeye was chasing his own son, but it turns out the Sailor Man is still childless (as far as he knows -- we have to take in account he IS a sailor). Where was this kid's parents then?
Another new revision to Olive Oyl is her limbless Rayman-hand that floats in midair. To the side of her dress, if you look closely, you can spot what remains of her deflated left arm, flopping in the breeze. Swee'Pea could have been Swee-Pizza if fate had picked a different arm.
Oh yeah, and....suddenly, there's Reagan.
Seriously....they cut to Ronald Reagan out of nowhere, seemingly live. Maybe 10:15 AM was the only free period he had in his schedule, but NBC didn't even promote the appearance. They told us MULTIPLE times we'd be getting Phyllis Diller, but never told us the leader of the free world would be showing up. I mean come on, this guy outranked Santa Claus. It's a special Thaksgiving message: "My fellow Americans, I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We start bombing in five minutes. Now here's Garfield."
Garfield appears, floating down New York City while a cover of "What's New Pussycat" plays with "gloink bloink" synth noises suggesting chubbiness. This balloon lasted a long time, and they were still using it by the time I was a regular parade viewer...and also using a variation of this same tune. I remember being confused as to why they didn't use the "Garfield and Friends" theme song instead.
|Kramer chats with comedienne Victoria Jackson under the Garfield balloon. Maybe this is where Jim Davis found her...she would later play Penelope in the latter seasons of Garfield and Friends. This video will probably be downvoted, as Jackson is a Trump supporter these days. She's paranoid now!
"What we're about to see is a first," teases Pat. "Half float, and half balloon...they call it a 'Falloon,' because 'Bloat' was the only other choice and that was silly." So who were the stars of the first-ever Bloat? Alvin and the Chipmunks. They gave a half-hearted performance in the 1983 parade, but this time they've got a movie to sell you....The Chipmunk Adventure, new in theaters. So they pull out all the stops, stomping their feet to "The Boys/Girls Of Rock And Roll" from the film in its entirety. The "balloon" part of the float is literally a hot air balloon, rising during the climax.
|Here's an example of the local ads Portland was getting. Not much to write about, is there? Good thing this "Saturday Morning cartoons on Friday Morning" ad was there at the beginning. I explicitly remember this as one of the ads Matt already uploaded way back when. Here's a better copy transferred off a D-VHS machine.
|So I guess someone made opaque rubber food containers at one point? Alternately these Leftover Queens could label their frozen food with masking tape, like my mother does, but then we wouldn't have a sales pitch. And you're probably wondering why I'm talking about the Rubbermaid ad when the one that ran after it is far more interesting. Yes, Song of the South was still being openly distributed by Disney, but this would be the last time it reached theaters. Back to containers....who the heck doesn't use oven mitts when removing a hot dish?
|Earlier parades were crammed with toys, and they were very representative of their time period to boot. The 1980 and 1981 parades are quite a trip for just the ads alone. There aren't quite as many toys this time....kind of a letdown. Laser Tag makes an appearance though.....wait, never mind, it's the knockoff "Photon."
|Ladies and gentlemen, the car of the Macy's Parade.....the Yugo! There are Yugo ads all throughout this broadcast. This car is, undeniably, a big piece of crap (and they seem to be aware, pitching the Yugo as a teenager's first vehicle or a second car for a middle-aged couple). But at least it's a cheap piece of crap....the ad boasts a $3990 MSRP, which is an insane deal even 30-plus years ago.
There was no hotter float in 1986 than the He-Man and She-Ra Super Duper Muscular Action-A-Thon Float. As the action figure badly play-acts a conflict with other action figures, who is there to narrate the story but...Dolph Lundgren, star of the sure-to-be-a-hit Masters of the Universe movie. Said movie wasn't due out until the following summer, an eternity in Kid Standard Time, so this was quite an early promotion. Would kids even remember it? Unfortunately Dolph had never hosted a parade, told a story, or done a thing in his life, so his attempt at whipping up the crowd was appallingly lethargic.
"Here's......He-Man.......master of Eternia.......like over there......he defends Castle Grayskull......against......bad guys I think......and they will fight He-Man......and he will win......uh-huh."
In the summer of 1987 Masters of the Universe, which was mainly about Billy Barty in a Yoda outfit and something involving Courteney Cox, opened in theaters...and was yanked back out after just three weeks due to poor performance. Lundgren never got to perform narrative duties in a Macy's Parade again.
At this point in history, Barbie was facing fierce competition from Jem and her Holograms, so she was forced to put on a wild glamrocker outfit and form a band. The newly formed "BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS" are introduced here. "BORN! Born with a mike in her hand! Doin' everything that she can! Born with a mike in her hand!" It's not a bad song, but I wouldn't call it a ROCK song....for one thing, there's no guitar, electric or otherwise. (Yes, that's a guitar on the right, but trust me, no one's playing it.) The strangest thing about this attraction is that a Smurf crashed the party, jumping in front of the stage and doing a boogie dance despite not being owned by Mattel.
Every time I see the Superman balloon, it's in a worse condition than before. This one takes the cake, to the point that I'm shocked they didn't withdraw it from the parade. He's half-deflated and all his limbs are saggy. One is completely blown and just hangs off to the side as a ribbon. And you can't see it but he's got a giant scar-like patch clear across his buttocks, meaning the situation was originally even worse. A sad sight for anyone, but for a symbol of strength like Superman, it's almost blasphemous.
Here's the point in the parade where Diller and Jackson play their roles. Phyllis as Mother Goose and Victoria as...someone riding on a snail. "Gather round, children all, Mother Goose is having a BALL! See her stories come alive while having her very own goose to drive! Okay Pat, turn the card over." She pulls a Bob Hope while waiting for a cue-card change. "Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub, and who do you think they be? It's Eddie and Larry and a hunk named Hank, and all of these boys are for MEEEEEEEEEEEEHOOOOO HOOO HA HA HAAAAAAA." With her icy trademark cackle, she points her finger at three NBC soap opera stars who happen to be riding in front of her. Run, guys!
By the time I spotted the Woody Woodpecker with the DISEMBODIED HEAD, I had to ask: WHERE was the balloon inspector this year? You're fired, George.
Remember last year when I wondered aloud why Universal hadn't done anything with Woody in a while? Boy, did I live to regret that remark.
Behold the 100th balloon ever to appear in a Macy's Parade (they counted): Humpty-Dumpty. With all the famous characters that have floated down these hallowed streets, it's strangely anticlimactic to give the centennial honor to a giant egg in tights.
Balloon #101, furnished by Sea World, honored the birth of Shamu. The "Baby Shamu" balloon didn't stay in rotation very long because Shamu didn't remain a child. There was also, eventually, the problem of movies like Free Willy casting places like Sea World in a negative light.
Purina Dog Chow brought us this giant paper-mache dog and special guests Dick and Pat Van Patten, who sang the novelty song "A Dog Makes A Family Complete." Purina wins the float award this year for the dog they cooked up. It really moves, and not in the Jerky Turkey way like some other floats I could mention. As Dick and Pat sing, the dog's head rises, it opens its mouth, and a giant "HAPPY THANKSGIVING AMERICA" scroll unfurls from it. The dog keeps it in its mouth for about thirty seconds, so the camera can see, and then it lets the banner float away. At no point did I see the banner before the dog unveiled it....and I'm talking like the dog somehow did this himself; THAT'S how good the animatronics are.
|They indeed saved all the good acts for the last half-hour. One wouldn't expect much out of a Cabbage Patch Kids musical number, but we get quite a showstopper here. Otis Lee for president!
|Here's the moment I alluded to earlier where having a local copy of Macy's #60 paid off. Up until the late 80s you could still buy milk in glass bottles around here, and they sold it from drive-through windows. I've never brought it up in casual conversation out of fear people would think I was crazy, but now I have definitive proof. If you see any place around Portland that has a drive-through where it's not necessary, that place used to be a Senn's.
|I've about had it with cloying McDonalds ads from the 80s, so I'm only uploading the two I could stand. One is a charming tale of two deaf people negotiating a date through their hands. He wants to surf, she doesn't. The other involves a girl stuck playing for a piano recital, who muscles through Beethoven with thoughts of junk food as a reward.
Something seemed underwhelming about this. So I counted, and this Rockettes performance has 19.5% fewer leg kicks than the previous year's. You gals are slacking off!
If it's the 1980s, and the Rockettes appear, that means the show's got about one minute left to go. And that means the arrival of Santa Claus, gliding into Herald Square on his magic sleigh, where he addresses all the kids at home and says: "My fellow Americans, I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We start bombing in five minutes. Now here's Garfield again."
RETURN TO THE MAIN PAGE