Panasonic PV-1500 VHS VCR (Circa-1979)

Sometimes (sometimes) it’s a little surprising being the Northeast Ohio Video Hunter. Flattering, but surprising. How so? Because when it comes to the vintage electronics posts, specifically VCRs as per our subject today, some of the feedback I receive can be (figuratively) eyebrow-raising. Mostly it’s in the form of viewership; for the most part I tend to get more views with the articles on old electronics than I do any other post. Sometimes though, people get the impression that I know more about all this stuff than I really do, and they’ll come to me with questions, either in the comment sections or in private emails.

I really am flattered by that, but I’m by no means an expert where VCRs are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I know the basics about them, I can usually tell when one is ‘good’ or there’s something unique or special regarding it, but it doesn’t take much online searching to find the real experts; folks that discuss pinch rollers and diodes and such. You know, the kind of technical stuff that makes my head swim.

I never meant to make people think I’m so kind of authority (ha!) on the subject, but rather, the unspoken idea behind my VCR articles was supposed to be from the viewpoint of a “regular guy.” An every man describing what he comes across from his POV, which is of course the exact reality. And it’s about to happen again.

So yeah, here’s another VCR article. Ladies and gentleman, rest your eyes upon the behemoth Panasonic PV-1500!

Via estate sale, I brought home the Panasonic PV-1500 not this past summer, but rather the summer before. No joke, this beast was the culminating find in a pretty good day of yard saleing (sailing?), over a year ago. I think the guy wanted $15 for it but took $8, if I recall correctly. So I paid up, flexed my negligible muscular abilities and hauled it home, and it’s been sitting off to the side in my basement floor ever since. Indeed, the pic above is from when it first entered my abode; subsequent pics, taken just the other day, will feature an obviously different locale, both because this thing is mammoth and I only want to mess with it so much, and because, frankly, this picture remained the best “all encompassing” shot of the thing. Don’t worry, we’ll take a closer look at all the particulars.

I don’t have an exact date for this VCR. The only mention I saw online was in this 1979 Popular Science scan, hence the “circa” of my title. Unfortunately, even the vintage VHS gallery currently skips from the PV-1300 to the PV-1600 in their listings. Stylistically the PV-1500 looks nearly identical to the PV-1600, except the latter features recording/playback in SP, LP and EP, whereas the former only features SP and LP. Being older, that, uh, makes sense.

As we saw in this terrible old article regarding a big huge Quasar VCR, I love these humongous early examples of home video technology. Not only are they absolute throwbacks to a totally bygone era (“gee, no kidding!”), but you, or at least I, don’t come across them very often – for obvious reasons. The difference of only a few years rendered decks like this wildly obsolete in size and looks and (most) abilities, and even nowadays these earlier machines don’t have much practical use, even as far as this incredibly niche hobby is concerned. This is about as far away from my beloved Panasonic AG-1970 as it gets!

That’s not to say VCRs like this should be tossed (again, as far as this niche hobby is concerned nowadays; the general public stopped caring about any and all VHS loooooong ago). Huge, impractical and lacking in certain abilities though it may be, as a historical piece of late-70s/early-80s tech, if nothing else it sure looks neat. Provided you’ve got the space for it, anyway; the footprint on these ain’t exactly dainty.

Manufacturers really went the extra mile with their products back then. Not only is this VCR built like a tank (with the size to match; I’m considering climbing in it and rolling down the street and wow that has to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever written on this blog), but it came with a protective dust cover. As per warnings found on said dust cover, you can’t have it on when the thing is playing or the timer is set or apparently at any other time except when the machine is sitting idle. This is understandable, since I imagine the amount of heat this units generates when powered up is comparable to a dern blast furnace.

Speaking of powered up, when I first considered writing an article on this VCR last week, I did indeed lug it out, plug it in, turn it on and test it as best I could. Not that I had any illusions of this magically working like new (these old machines may have been well built, but c’mon, this is still a roughly 40 year old electronic we’re talking about), but even so, the whirring/grinding noise it made when I ran a tape – one I didn’t care about – was borderline stomach-churning, and made all the more unsettling by the fact it wouldn’t stop even when I finally got the tape out (and when I powered off then on, the grinding would start right back up again).

Also, messing with some of the switches didn’t seem to produce any effect (i.e., they weren’t registering), I couldn’t get the clock to display even a flashing 12:00, and to top it all off, the decades of accumulated dust/grime/I don’t know produced a smell that was not particularly pleasant (and also not unlike what I briefly described in my RCA TV/Atari Xenophobe post).

All of which is to say that unlike my usual M.O., you’re not getting any pictures of this deck powered on, playing a tape, or what have you. As such, for me, it has been rendered most definitively a display piece. A very large display piece. A display piece that constantly threatens to absolutely obliterate one of my feet should it drop when my muscles give out while trying to carry it.

Whether correctly working or not (and trust me, it’s the latter, not the former), the channel selectors on the front panel absolutely made this worth the eight bucks or however much I dropped on it.

Indeed, if you recall this old Toshiba Betamax post (the odds are you won’t), you’ll remember that that machine featured the same set-up, and that I was quite enamored with it. Why? Because it’s so absolutely, undeniably Northeast Ohio.

I don’t know what 2 stood for, but 3 = WKYC (NBC), 5 = WEWS (Cleveland’s ABC), 8 = WJKW (CBS), 43 = WUAB (independent station), 25 = WVIZ (Cleveland PBS), 61 = WCLQ (another indie, and points to this being used in the early 1980s, as that station signed on in ’81), 45 = WNEO (Alliance/Youngstown PBS), 23 = WAKR (Akron’s ABC), 17 = WJAN or WDLI, depending on if it’s before 1983 or after (religious indie), and 9 = no idea.

Also, look close and you can see the remote control (they were corded back then!) and microphone inputs at the very bottom of the unit.

Here’s how you’d tune the aforementioned channels in. I guess once they were entered into the presets it wasn’t a big deal, but man oh man, getting there practically required a master’s degree in engineering or sumpin’. Seriously, this pretty much makes my head swim just looking at it.

Also, your obligatory tracking knob as well as a tuner/camera toggle are located on this panel.

In the same wheelhouse, located just above the channel presets is the VCR timer station and clock-settin’ switches. While somewhat less complicated than the requirements, erm, required for tuning the channels, it’s still something that looks like a far bigger pain than you’d expect. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing that would have had me staying up till all hours just to “easy” record something. (I.e., simply press the record button at the specific time whatever I wanted was set to begin.)

Like most everything else about this VCR, these are functions that would be (thankfully) simplified just a few short years later. Suddenly I get all the “I can’t get the clock to stop flashin’ 12:00!” jokes.

Also, I’ve never liked the old school ‘number counters’ found on older decks. Gimme good ol’ hours and minutes any day!

This is a top-loading VCR, and as such, tapes are loaded (say it with me) on the top of the unit, via raising/lowering drawer. When the powered up, a light illuminates the inside of the drawer, a feature that does indeed still work on this machine.

Another hallmark of these early-gen VCRs: cassette player-styled buttons for play, stop, etc.

And, an option that would continue for some years after VCRs began being downsized and simplified but was largely absent as the 1990s dawned on lower-end consumer models is the audio dub feature, which as you can see was present here.

Like I said before, I couldn’t get the clock to come on, no matter what I slammed my paws on. As such, this picture here is little different than if I had the machine plugged in. So why are you getting so upset?

The power light is self-explanatory, but the one labeled “dew” stands for a dew indicator. Basically, if there was moisture in the machine, the light would come on and the machine would refuse to function until said moisture had dissipated or was otherwise removed. Pretty smart move, especially since water and electricity don’t mix and the last thing you need is one of these VCRs exploding like that one planet in Star Wars.

Also, toggles for power, and TV/VTR (VTR standing for Video Tape Recorder). And as you can see, only two recording speeds were available: SP and LP. People like to mention how the earliest VCRs had a two-hour SP VHS recording time over Betamax’s mere single hour, but you know, I’ve got an RCA VBT-200 from 1977, apparently the first VHS VCR released in the U.S., and unless it’s a later revision but with the same model number, mine features the same SP/LP option. Heck, the earliest blank VHS tapes also indicated 2 or 4 hour recording times.

All of which goes to say that for as much as I love Beta, VHS had an even bigger advantage in recording times from the very start than is usually stated. Did you want better picture quality or way more recording time? I really do love Betamax, but there’s a reason VHS won the war.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel for these VCR posts to be “complete,” I have to take a look at the inputs/outputs/etc. on the back of the machines, but in truth, I never really have all that much to say about them. I mean, what can I say? Stuff is kinda self-explanatory.

I do like seeing the input/outputs for both UHF and VHS, that’s a nice throwback, and I especially like that AV cables are supported. Had it looked like this VCR even remotely still functioned correctly, I’d have taken advantage of them and hopefully posted a screencap of something playing, but twas not to be.

“Remote Pause” I’m assuming refers to an option separate from the corded remote input found on the front? Something to pause a recording as it, uh, records, I’m guessing?

See, PV-1500. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t.

The PV-1500 complies with the FCC, as you’d hope, but the real interesting thing here is the disclaimer about recording. Ah, the days before the 1984 court case put that issue to bed!

I like the warning about not getting water all over the VCR. You’d think such a warning is merely covering all the bases, but let’s face it, there were probably some folks out there who needed that reminder. The very same folks who would have (presumably) been wrestling with the channel-tuning and clock-setting features, which is kinda mind blowing.


You know, over the years I’ve collected a lot of VCRs. Some for actual use, some merely for the sake of collecting. And one thing I’ve come to realize is that Panasonics are probably my favorites.  Generally well-built, sometimes feature-packed, and very often just plain cool-lookin’, as far as I’m concerned Panasonic put out some of the best machines in that (in my opinion) 1985-1990 sweet spot of consumer VCRs. Heck, years later I’m still enamored by the slick and swanky PV-1730. Certainly in this day and age some models will probably need some work, at least belt replacements, to get them up and running correctly, but that’s just the nature of old electronics.

Anyway, this PV-1500 hails from a bit before all that, in the relatively more-lawless early days of the format. Innovations and downsizing and such were still forthcoming, but for the time, this was a revolutionary (and undoubtedly expensive!) piece of technology. I’d like to think that in this age of high-def and streaming services and whatnot, that can still be appreciated.

(I don’t know how else to end this article; I’m kinda spent. It’s a cool old VCR, okay?)

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Vintage (?) Kung Fu Action Figure by Manley

Friends, I come to you today with not only a stop-gap post, nor only a desire to fill an ostensible gap in internet-land, but also with a request for further information. I’m only one person; by myself I can only do so much. But together, we can do…something.

Here’s the backstory: a few years ago, I was traipsing through Dollar General, and while I don’t remember the other particulars of the visit, I imagine I probably got annoyed with people being in my way as I tried to pass down an aisle, as if they were purposely inhibiting me and didn’t have the right to shop. A reasonable annoyance or terrible fault on my part? You decide!

Anyway, I always make two stops at DG: 1) At least a cursory glance at their DVD section, and 2) a look at their toy aisle. Now, when I’ve looked at action figures and such on this site in the past, I’ve mentioned that I’m not really a full-fledged “toy guy.” And for the most part, that’s still true; when it comes to new action figures and the like, I generally don’t care. Though there have been exceptions, my eyes tend to figuratively glaze over when confronted with whatever new product has been foisted on the youth of America.

HOWEVER, in two specific areas, I guess I am a pretty big toy guy. First off, I’m a total sucker for vintage toys, which normally means anything 1994 or before to me, though the late-90s are now getting old enough (!) that I’ve found my interest growing in pre-2000 items. Some of that is nostalgia on my part, since we’re now at 20 years (!!) since the 1990s neared an end. Intellectually, I know that stuff is now “old,” even if it doesn’t feel that way to me emotionally. It’s a little depressing if I allow myself to think too long about it.

ALSO, and we’ve seen this (more than once), I love the budget toys. In look and build quality, some of them recall the ‘real’ toys I had in my formative years, but even when they don’t, they can display a real quirky charm and/or level of interest that I just don’t get from the (relatively) big budget items of today. The fact that they’re cheaper and I’m almost perpetually short of money certainly helps, too.

It’s in the latter category that our subject today falls…

As I sauntered throughout DG that night, the regular toy aisle, near as I can recall, left me empty handed. But, as I walked down the main aisle, my eyes fell upon something laying on one of the end caps, something that didn’t belong with whatever foodstuff they had been designated to showcase. Oh no, this was quite a bit cooler, and it’s what you’re seeing to your left at this very moment.

I refer to him as “Kung Fu Guy,” though his official moniker is “Kung Fu Action Figure.” Regardless of name, I was immediately enamored by this figure, from the build quality, to the eye-catchin’ red clothing, to the simple fact that I would have loved this figure when I was a kid (I was and am a pushover for kung fu/karate/ninja action figures). From first glance there was little doubt that this thing was coming home with me.

It must be noted that I hadn’t seen this figure before prior, and I haven’t seen it again since. Once, some guy in a Facebook group told me had one, but that’s the first and last I’ve heard on the subject from outside sources. Where did it come from? How did it get there? How old is it? As you can see, the card is a little beat up, and my hypothesis is that it had slipped behind a rack or box or something sometime beforehand, only to later be unearthed by a worker or perhaps even a random customer. Maybe some kid found it buried somewhere in the store and carried it around before their Karen of a mom made them leave it behind. Had I had more foresight, I could have asked to see the security footage of that section of the store, as if I had any right to request such a thing.

OR, maybe they only got a few in and this was the last one. Like I said, I saw no others before or since, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there; only that I missed them. (Though, figures like this really are the kind of things I tend to notice.)

I refuse to remove Kung Fu Guy from his protective packaging. On the contrary; I’d like to have him AFA graded. Not because I think it’ll automatically give me a big time meal ticket collectible item, but rather because I sometimes like to be as superfluous as possible. The only thing stopping me? Frankly, uh, money. I just don’t have the spare bucks to be so recklessly arbitrary.

Because Kung Fu Guy remains ensconced in his paper & plastic prison, I can only surmise as to his build quality. Though you may be tempted to think otherwise after looking at the neck-joint in the picture above, the figure sure seems to be reasonably solidly built. Since I didn’t open and play with it, it’s really only a gut feeling on my part, but the figure comes across to me as something akin to what you and I and Johnny-runs-his-mouth over there would have gotten back in the 1980s or early-90s. Not just in construction, but in general looks as well. That is most definitely a good thing.

KFG comes with five points of articulation, arms, legs and head, as well as a single accessory, some kind of ostensibly-appropriate nightstick. I don’t know what it’s called! What I do know is that KFG’s deadliest weapon isn’t his fists or feet or baton, but his mind.

Also, look close; they put “Kung Fu” on his chest, as if a descriptive term was really necessary. I so love that. Is that a thing, labeling yourself with your occupation? Or maybe KFG’s parents literally named him that, as if to say “you’re only getting one career choice in life!” I like the idea of whatever dojo this guy belongs to insisting that all members wear name tags like they were gas station attendants or something. “Hi, my name is Kung Fu and I’ll be pummeling you today!”

Kung Fu Action Figure was manufactured by Manley, an aspect that caused me to reword the title of this post accordingly, lest some hapless reader think I was referring to the masculinity of the toy. That would have been spelled “manly,” and while I’m sure KFG is plenty manly (he’d kinda have to be, right?), we’re talking about Manley here. I’m assuming this is the same company, in which case they’ve been around since 1987 and are based in Hong Kong, which is appropriate for several reasons.

Online searches revealed a few toys sharing the same company logo seen here and reaching back to the 1990s (the best example I found was this 1997 wrestling figure), so Manley does go back a ways. Indeed, that’s why I mentioned “vintage” in the title of this post, albeit without definitively concluding so. The “3+” in the upper-left hand corner of the card seems, to me, to point to a product of the 2000s, but everything else about it, from the look and build of the figure to the card it’s on, tells my gut it’s older, late-90s or before.

I have zero proof of that of course, and I could very well be wrong; the fact I found it when I did seems to naturally declare that I am wrong. But then, just a few years ago, I found a whole load of recordable VHS tapes, and even a Betamax tape, at a Marc’s grocery store for 39 cents apiece. These weren’t new old stock tapes either, that would have been kinda understandable. But no, these were used tapes. As in, stuff was already recorded on ’em. I have no idea what the catalyst behind stocking these was, and it’s the only time I saw the store do that, but my point is that an older toy such as KFG showing up at a bigger chain store in this day and age isn’t totally unreasonable. Quite a bit less random than all those video tapes showing up at a Marc’s, anyway.

And that brings me back to the request I alluded to in the intro of this update. I’d really like to know more about this figure! I can’t find anything about it online, so if anyone has one or remembers them, please, hit up the comments with some info! When were these figures around? Were there others in the line? Were there uniform color variants? (White, blue and/or black attired versions would have been pretty rad.) These burning questions must be answered! I won’t rest until they are!

Well, I will rest; it’s not like this stuff needs to be keeping me up at night. I’ve got far bigger problems that take care of that. Still, it’d be nice to know.

WEWS TV-5’s The Morning Exchange – Vintage Coffee Mug

Yeah yeah, I know, I took nearly all of August off. A combination of being busy, lack of ‘writable’ material and absence of drive kept me from duly updating my arbitrary blog. Those last two reasons are related; technically, I’ve always got lots of stuff I could write about, but the fire man, the fire has to be there. It’s like how a car don’t go without no gas or some stupid analogy like that. And when I go out thrifting, I very nearly always come home with what I consider some good winnins, but it’s the cool winnins that give me the fire. And it’s those very cool winnins that have been more-or-less MIA in recent weeks. This, my friends, was not an ideal situation for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter, but it’s not like I had much say in the matter.

‘Course, it’s times like that when I can just sit back and let my old material do the work for me. I mean, when I wrote about that sentient alarm clock over a year ago (!), I held no illusions about it being a particularly popular post; I just got jazzed enough over the device that I wanted to introduce it to a potential audience. It’d be there for the right people when they come looking. And for quite awhile, that’s pretty much where things sat, until in recent months when its popularity relatively exploded, with enough page views and comments to put a figurative smile on mah face.

ANYWAY, this find from just last night is, rest assured, just the sort of thing that can get my creative juices flowin’ and another new update on the dinner table. Dig this: it’s a vintage coffee mug promoting WEWS TV-5 of Cleveland’s long, long running and incredibly influential daily talk show, The Morning Exchange. Cool winnins.

I take solace in the fact that (apparently) most people don’t find the same things that I do interesting, because this is the sort of thing that I would (and did) snap up with extreme fervor; there was absolutely no question it was coming home with me from first glimpse. And yet, when I came upon it, it sat nearly alone in a big tub, seemingly unwanted by those who knew no better. But I knew. I knew.

Now to be honest, I’ve got lots of glassware and mugs and what have you that I could write about, and sometimes I did consider doing so during what turned out to be my unintentional hiatus. I decided against it though; it just felt too soon after the last time I looked at old Northeast Ohio television-related coffee mugs. Heck, in the time since, I picked up yet another new-to-me WVIZ java accessory, but I just didn’t want to go back to that well. Not yet, anyway. I don’t want to become known as “The Mug Man,” man.

This Morning Exchange thing is different though. Not only because it’s promoting an absolutely legendary piece of Cleveland television history (it was so popular locally, it inspired ABC to create the national Good Morning America!), but also because it was hosted for nearly all of its 27 year (!!) run by local icon Fred Griffith, who sadly passed away recently. No joke, Griffith was a certified local legend, and from what I’ve heard, a genuine good egg to boot.

Here’s the thing with this mug: as you can see in the above pic, the logo is quite wide, and as such, getting the whole thing in one definitive shot just isn’t going to happen, unless y’all wanna provide me with one of them Matrix cameras or something. Wait, I don’t think that would work here, either.

So anyway, to better educate and inform and annoy the masses, I’m gonna have to provide some additional pictures. As such, here’s the left side of the mug, showcasing the, uh, left side of the Morning Exchange logo. Also visible: the ever-handy, erm, handle that allows one to make use of the mug without scalding their delicate lil’ hands.

Look, I don’t really know what you want me to say about it, okay? It’s one side of a coffee mug. And since I just used up whatever I could think to say about it here, I’m already questioning what I’m going to write about the other half. Nothing can ever be easy in my world.

So yeah, here’s the right side. The rest of the logo, close-up of the channel 5 logo, big swoopy thing comin’ off the “g” in “Exchange,” you can see it all here. The white lettering over burgundy is an attractive, appropriately morning-ish look. I dig it!

(Yeah, now I’m spent.)

It’s funny; I didn’t (and don’t) ever really watch any morning shows, mainly because I’m rarely up in time, and even though I have little direct history with The Morning Exchange, because it was such an ever-present part of the Northeast Ohio television landscape for such a long time, I remain fond of it. My grandmother used to watch it, my mom says she used to watch it, so there’s some pleasant memories there. But really, it’s more about what this mug represents that enamors me so. What’s that? One of the giants of Northeast Ohio television, that’s what!

All that said, I have no idea how old this mug is; there’s no date anywhere on it. I’m considering it late-80s or early-90s, but I could be dead wrong on that. The channel 5 logo was updated around 1995, so methinks it’s prior to then. The Morning Exchange ran from 1972 to 1999, so even at the latest it’s around 20 years old as of this writing. I really don’t think it’s even that relatively-recent, though. I do think it’s somewhat newer than this example, but how, when and where it relates to these examples, I do not know. I’m going with a mental “circa-1990” descriptive term, though I’m not confident in it enough to add it to the title of this update. (While on the subject, I couldn’t find a sequence of wording for the title that I was totally happy with, so if it reads awkwardly, that’s why.)

How would one go about getting one of these back in the day? My brother suggested it was a souvenir of actual guests on the program. If that’s the case, MAN is that cool. I’m not prepared to go quite that far though, not just yet. I’m thinking this was a promotional item anyone could have gotten, but that begs the question: where? There (probably) wasn’t any internet yet, at least not in any form approaching how we now know it. So, personal appearances by the hosts? Industry swag? A mail order item? Was there something akin to what WJW TV-8 later had, their very own store? (It was in Summit Mall.)

These are questions I know not the answer to. Maybe it was a guest-used/show-used item. That’d be, as the hip individuals say, pretty baller.

Regardless of its origin, the very fact that this coffee mug promotes a veritable Cleveland institution such as The Morning Exchange is more than enough. The fact it’s a coffee mug (cause coffee/morning, dig?) just makes it all the more appropriate. The era and images and feelings it invokes is indelibly Northeast Ohio. A bygone era in our broadcasting history. The sad fact of the matter is stuff like this doesn’t turn up all that often, but when it does, it’s cause for celebration and weird, amateurish touchdown dances. I didn’t, but I could have.

There’s your precious update. Maybe I’ll get another one up within the next several decades, we’ll see.

VHS Review: THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980 MCA Videocassette Inc. ‘Two Part’ Version)

Hey, do you like The Blues Brothers? Sure you do! I mean, who doesn’t? Movie’s a legit classic, yo. I certainly love the film; a random weekend broadcast years and years ago introduced me proper to it, and I’ve been a fan ever since. To me, it’s the gold standard of SNL-based movies, and – unless you’re counting something like Ghostbusters which featured more than one SNL alumni but wasn’t based on an actual SNL skit – man, it’s not even close.

Which makes this random find from last week so mind blowing to yours truly. While looking over rows of used VHS at a thrift store, my eyes feel upon, say it with me, The Blues Brothers. Upon first glance it appeared to be just another relatively-early copy of the film; I may love the movie, but earlier pressings are practically a dime-a-dozen.

That is, until I noticed the copyright of 1980 at the top of the sleeve spine (reason enough alone to snap it up; earlier copies may be common, but not necessarily the earliest) and, perhaps more interestingly, the notation of “Part II.”

The historical aspects of this find were immediately evident: this was almost-certainly the very first home video issue of the film (it’s from 1980; it can’t go any earlier than that, cause that’s the same year the movie came out, man!), and as such, because it was a fairly lengthy film (2 hours 13 minutes), it had to be split over two VHS tapes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must specify that I only have Part II here. I certainly looked at the thrift, but Part I was MIA. Either someone didn’t realize what was up and bought tape #1 before I got there, or (what seems more likely) Part I was loooong gone before Part II ever set foot in the store. Either way this was mildly irritating for yours truly, but I can’t complain too much; I had zero idea that The Blues Brothers was split over two tapes for its initial video release, or truthfully, that the movie even had a video release the same year it hit theaters.

It makes sense that they’d have to split the movie into two parts that early on though; that sort of thing was not uncommon in the early years of VHS for longer flicks such as this. The first video release of the 1976 King Kong remake went the same route, for example. Just a few years later, companies figured out how to get the entire film all in one package. Indeed, by 1983 The Blue Brothers was seemingly all on one tape, but apparently the technology wasn’t there yet in 1980.

From initial appearances, the front cover here doesn’t look too different from the common VHS releases of the films seen throughout the rest of the 1980s and probably into the 1990s. Visit that just-linked page and you’ll see that the 1983 edition looks pretty close front-cover-wise to this one – except that for this initial issue they colored Jake & Elwood’s sunglasses green. I don’t know why they colored the sunglasses green, but it seems to be unique to this first release.

Other than that though, the cover looks extremely similar to that 1983 edition, and barring just a few further changes, even the 1985 release looks pretty much the same. It’s all about those green glasses and, you know, two-part thing here. (Also, I just noticed John Candy didn’t get a credit at the very top; say what?!)

If you go back up and check out that link to the 1983 edition of this film, you’ll see that by and large it looks very, very similar as far as the back cover goes, too. In fact, except for that whole “Part II” notation here and the missing credits and “Dolby” info seen in ’83, it looks pretty identical. Even the synopsis is the same.

The summary on the back is fine, and it’s not like there’s room for a novel back there, but even so, some pertinent info was left out. Namely, that Jake & Elwood are in a race against time to raise some (honest) money in order to save their childhood orphanage. Remember, they’re “on a mission from God.”

To do this, they have to get their old band back together, do some playin’ and make some money fast – all while causing a lot of destruction and creating a buncha enemies.

It’s a very, very funny movie, endlessly quotable (“I hate Illinois nazis”) and featuring some terrific musical numbers. Despite being rated R (which, oddly enough, I don’t see mentioned anywhere on this release), it’s not a particularly objectionable movie. Some salty language and a few other things that warrant the rating, but the main plot is overwhelmingly positive in nature.

A weird aside: I always kinda get a kick out of the old school “MCA Videocassette Inc.” logo. It’s ‘early home video’ in the best way, and a sure sign of interest whenever I’m out spending more money than I should at thrift stores and the like.

(The back of the sleeve is much brighter than my picture here shows – I took the shot in a darker spot than I did the others in this post. Also, the ancient tape residue in evidence points to Part I originally being fixed to this here Part II – so where’d it go???)

The tape itself. Obviously it was a former rental, from some place called Video Ventures. I have no idea what paths this tape took to find itself in mah grubby mitts here in Northeast Ohio, but according to that sticker, it evidently spent some time in Bremerton, Washington!

I’m not sure how well my pic shows it, but the sad fact of the matter is this tape has gotten a little moldy in the nearly 40 years since release. I noticed this upon finding the thing, and generally such maladies are enough to make me avoid a buy, but in this case this tape was coming home with me regardless.

I know not who scratched out the running time and wrote “7 min” above it or why, I’m guessing the video store, but the actual running time is more like 28 minutes; seems like a pretty uneven split between two tapes to me. Maybe there’s more and the mold is just keeping the hardened tape from rewinding further – it’s tough to tell because that sticker is in the way, but removing it is not an option.

No, no in-movie screencaps to round out this review; I had to clean my VCR heads after running this one as it is. I doubt there’s anything here unique to this release in comparison to slightly later issues anyway. Except for, you know, that whole “split in two parts” thing.

I can find virtually no references to this particular VHS of The Blues Brothers out there in internet land, except for this Amazon page, in which a used copy (copies?) is presented sans sleeves. Like I said before, this was a release I was completely unaware of beforehand. Given the super early release date, I’m guessing it definitely falls on the rarer side of things.

For a Blues Brothers fan such as myself, it’s an incredibly cool discovery. I hold no illusions of stumbling upon Part I, though you never know. I imagine I’ll come across that 1983 edition at some point though, and that’d make for a nice consolation prize.

I still can’t figure out why they made their sunglasses green on the front cover of this one, though.

Memorex Video Information System (1992)

When I woke up today, I had no idea what a Memorex Video Information System was or that such a device ever existed. Had you shown up at my house to inform me of such a product, I’d have reacted with utter confusion and then told you to get out of my messy abode. Seriously, what were you thinking?

But oh how quickly things can change! Just a few hours after waking up (I won’t tell you when I woke up, but it was probably unacceptably late), I found myself at Goodwill, as I so often do. I waltzed out with an old piece of local glassware (does anyone remember Walsh’s Saloon of Akron? I can find nothing on them online!) and a two-VHS Godzilla set I didn’t really need but actually kinda did.

Found during the same visit was what appeared to be an old CD player, shoved on their electronics shelf and with a big $4 price scrawled on it in annoyingly-thick grease marker. An introductory glance revealed that this was indeed a CD-based contraption, but something  called a “VIS.” Clearly a closer inspection and look-up on my phone was warranted and granted. Turns out this was something called the “Memorex Video Information System.”

It was neat, it was interesting, and yet, I didn’t buy it!

Nope, I actually checked out with my treasures and went home sans VIS. I only had a few bucks on me anyway. I’d gotten the VIS bug though, and as soon as I got home, I did a bit more research, realized I had passed on a pretty rare item, grabbed some more money, and made a really hasty retreat back to Goodwill. There the VIS still sat, seemingly untouched by anyone since I had been bothering it probably less than an hour before. And so, here we are.

It looks like a cross between a VCR and a garden-variety CD player of the period, dunnit?

The Memorex Video Information System was actually a Tandy/Radio Shack innovation, originally releasing in 1992 and operating in the same “interactive multimedia” wheelhouse as the CD-i but evidently flopping far worse than that thing ever did (which is really saying something). It probably wasn’t really a video game system – I’m not sure any legitimate video games were even made for this – but it did originally come with video game-like wireless controllers (I looked, and they were nowhere to be found; I imagine they were loooong gone before this showed up at Goodwill).

It seems that the majority of software releases focused more on “edutainment” titles (*shudder*), but still, I find the CD-i (and Commodore CDTV) comparisons intriguing. I collect obscure gaming and gaming-related things like this, and when it comes to the early-1990s, the VIS is an obscurity of the highest order. Like I said, I had no inkling of such a thing existing beforehand.

Wikipedia has an informative entry on it, and according to them it retailed for a whopping $699 (!!), sold only 11,000 units (!!!), and ran on a modified version of Windows 3.1. There were actual VIS discs created for this thing; I’m not sure if it will run any regular PC games of the era or not, but I’m guessing that it won’t.

Look, it’s basically a circa-1992 computer in a console-ish shell and with its own brand of discs to run, not unlike the original Xbox except nobody owned the VIS (relatively speaking, I mean).

As you can see above, the front of the unit is pretty minimalist; only power and disc drawer open/close buttons are immediately evident.

But look here: a little slidey panel on the bottom-right reveals a few more options. Here’s where the cartridge input is located, though to what extent software was found in cartridge form for the VIS, I cannot say. Also, microphone and headphone inputs and a volume control, because hey, it was 1992. The headphone jack and volume knob are self-explanatory, but I can’t fathom what a microphone would be needed for here. Did this thing do some kind of recording? Or did something on the VIS beat Hey You, Pikachu! to the punch by several years?

The only other aspect of the front that ‘does’ anything is, needless to say, the CD drawer. It, uh, opens and closes. Unlike my 9-year-old Blu-ray player, the drawer of the pushing-30-years-old Video Information System opens and closes pretty fast and smoothly. Hey, for 700 bucks, you’d sure hope some lastin’ quality would be built-in!

(I’m not sure how well my pictures show it, but this particular VIS unit was in exceptionally good shape. Of course I have no way of knowing how much use it did or didn’t get back in the day, but it appears to have been well-maintained.)

Since I have neither software nor controllers for the VIS, what I can and can’t do with it is pretty limited. (Go figure!) Still, being a CD-based electronic, there are ways of testing it beyond merely plugging it in and seeing if the power light comes on.

Well, that’s a good sign! At least I get a start-up screen upon pressing power! I wish I could insert a disc or cartridge, VIS. One made specifically for you, I mean.

Now, I’ve got a ton of old PC games in my collection, but only so many within the immediate vicinity. As such, the copy of Mad Dog McCree I picked up fairly recently and thus was still in said immediate vicinity became my test subject. I questioned whether the VIS would run it or not, though even if it did, I had no way of actually playing it.

It was a moot point however, since the game wouldn’t run. I guess I didn’t seriously expect it to, but there was a small hope nevertheless.

I could have called it quits right there and been satisfied; it’s not like I’d be throwing such a rare item out even if it was entirely nonfunctional anyway, but the fact that it powered up and gave me a starting screen was enough for me to label this find a full-fledged cool winnin.

Still, I wouldn’t be an efficient time waster if I didn’t research just a bit further, so like I did with the Kodak Photo CD thing I babbled about a million years ago, I grabbed an audio CD I had lying about and loaded it up.

Not only did I get a specific “CD player” screen, but the VIS automatically started the disc playing! Obviously I had no way of skipping tracks or pausing or what have you, but for the brief time I had music going, it sounded really nice, and without any skipping/distorting. Pretty cool for something some 27-years-old! That’s not to say the entire disc would have played flawlessly; who knows how the VIS would have operated once really heating up or something, but in this day and age, is it even important? Maybe if I could play games (“games”) it would be, but as it stands, I’m labeling this all “good enough.”

So in summation, a trip (well, two trips) to Goodwill netted me a pretty cool piece of early-90s tech. The Memorex Video Information System was quite a failure for Radio Shack, though in just the brief time I’ve had it, I’ve read several different viewpoints on just how long it was on shelves. I suppose it doesn’t really matter; if the 11,000 units figure is correct, man, that’s like nothin’. (For the record: there’s no actual date on mine, so I’m going with a generic “1992” notation here, as seen in the title of this post.)

I wish I could give a better demonstration of VIS’ abilities. I can’t, but luckily, Gamester81 has an excellent video review of it that gives you a far better idea of how this thing operated.

I have no illusions of ever coming across controllers and/or software for the VIS, but hey, you never know what you’ll come across later in the day when you first wake up!

Still, for now I’ve got the system, and that’s enough. It kinda has to be, you know?

(And before anyone asks, no this is not for sale!)

The Pizza Shop of Canton, Ohio – Vintage Promotional Playing Cards

“Oooh where has yoy been East Video Dood???”

Here’s the deal: I had something ordered on eBay that I felt stood a very good chance of being worthy (ha!) of being spotlighted on my silly blog. I was excited for it, it held promise, so of course the seller never sent it. Days went by without any update to the order after my lightnin’ quick payment, I (politely) opened my yap, the item was then marked as shipped – but without a tracking number – days later, then weeks went by without said item arriving, I (politely) opened my yap again, a week went by before I received a response promising it was going out ASAP, I gave the benefit of the doubt and waited some more, nothing happened again, so I finally filed a complaint and got a refund.

Any semi-reasonable buyer would have filed said complaint and gotten said refund looong before I actually did, but with a generous window of time to act, only being out 12 bucks, and really wanting what I ordered, I played extraordinarily patient but was not rewarded. Not only did I not get what I hoped to write about (and I’m not saying what it was cause I don’t need all y’all battlin’ me if another one pops up), but weeks and weeks went by without a proper update here in the interim. I’m not saying that was the only reason you didn’t get an update during that time period, but it’s the factor I’m laying all the blame on.

So, instead you get to read about pizza-related playing cards. A fair trade-off? Without knowing what I was hoping to detail instead, you’ll just never know, will you??? (Unless I can obtain said item in the future; then I’ll spill the beans.)

No, this update has nothing to do with video, broadcasting, electronics, or any of the other normative suspects on this site, but it does have to do with Northeast Ohio and advertising, so I’m saying it fits. And even if it doesn’t, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

Behold! It’s The Pizza Shop of Canton, Ohio, immortalized in playing card form! Actually, nothing here specifies if it was Ohio’s Canton, and Wikipedia sez there are lots and lots of places in this world with that moniker, but since I found these in Canton, Ohio, methinks it’s a safe guess that that’s where these originally hail from. Quite a leap, huh?!

Found with a two-compartment, ridge-sided plastic holder that appears to have originally had a lid at some point (there were none to be found in the vicinity, and I looked), many of these cards were all over the place when I came across them at a thrift store several months ago. They appeared to have been part of some card collector’s collection (that’s alliteration, as well as slightly redundant); other cards of the playing variety were strewn about as well. The Domino’s Pizza cards went back because they didn’t feature The Noid, but I’m a sucker for vintage local restaurant memorabilia, especially when said restaurant apparently doesn’t exist anymore, so there was no way these weren’t coming home with me – once I gathered them all back up, anyway.

I say the place apparently doesn’t exist anymore because I  can find no information on it whatsoever. Granted, typing “The Pizza Shop” and “Canton” into a search engine doesn’t exactly make for a narrow set of results, but nevertheless, I could find no info on this place at all. Is it still around? Did it evolve/merge into another place? Do you remember it? PLEASE, share any info you have in the comments! This is an interactive site, y’see!

The image you’re seeing on the left above is found across the back of each and every card in the set, presenting what I surmise were the actual logos of the restaurant proper: the name (which is sort of a must-have in cases such as these) and a little chef giving the “okay sign” and wearing a kickin’ bow tie (though aren’t most bow ties pretty kickin’ anyway?). There’s also the tagline proclaiming the place to be “Canton’s Original,” though original what isn’t specified. Was it Canton’s original pizza place, the original location of what was a local chain, or…?

(Also, if the plastic holder these are in did originally feature a lid, I wonder if any kind of graphics/info pertaining to The Pizza Shop was printed on it as well? If indeed the holder is even original to these cards in the first place, that is.)

Otherwise, and as demonstrated with the card on the right above, well, it’s just a normal set of playing cards. Brown & Bigelow playing cards to be exact, as per the company info printed right there for all to see. Brown & Bigelow of St. Paul, MN is evidently no longer around; this site says they existed from the 1920s to the 1980s. I have no hard data regarding what possible date(s) these could possibly hail from, but even if they’re from the extreme of the 1980s, that still counts as vintage so stop finding fault with my post title.

Actually, the font of “Canton’s Original” strikes me as being 1960s-ish. I have absolutely nothing to support that other than a gut-feeling, but I get that impression nevertheless. Again, if you can confirm or know otherwise, drop some knowledge in the comments!

Like I said, many of these cards were all over the place when I stumbled upon them, which meant I had to duly collect them all back up for collecting-purposes. It appears I got them all; I counted 53 cards here. That is, it’s a normal 52-card French-style deck, with one Joker. I searched pretty diligently, so if there were any more Jokers, I no not where they got to. I really do think I’ve got the whole set here.

Given my lack of success in figuring out when or how long this restaurant existed, the chances of my figuring out when and/or how exactly these cards were originally obtained seems doubtful as well. Free with a pizza, perhaps? Nevertheless, the deck is a cool little piece of Northeast Ohio eatery memorabilia, one that appears (to me) to hail from a truly bygone era. I don’t normally collect playing cards, but these were just too neat – and ostensibly obscure –  to pass up.

I wasn’t kidding before; if you have any info on this place, please share in the comments!

WVIZ TV-25 Auction Mug Round-Up (1983-1990)

It’s doubtful that any of my four faithful (?) readers remember the update, but this past August I shared the cool vintage Cleveland WVIZ TV-25 drinkin’ mug my friend Jesse picked up for me. It was neato, I was happy, I got a post out of it, and life went on.

But little did I realize at the time that my journey with local-PBS-affiliate-emblazoned beverage containers wasn’t over; oh no, it was just beginning. In recent weeks, that same friend has stumbled across a veritable cornucopia of WVIZ mugs, hailing from their annual fundraising auctions. All but one of them were found at the exact same time; I’ll be presenting six of them in this update, which means that it’s safe to say five probably came from the same person originally. That, or it was the most incredible coincidence ever.

(And funny enough, sometime in the middle of that first mug find and all of these, he found me another one of those mugs that I wrote about initially; go figure! Thanks for all these man!)

I’m guessing these were gifts for pledging a donation to WVIZ during that fundraising time? Or an added bonus if you won an auction? Perhaps even swag given out to people manning the phones? Specifics, anyone?

Anyway, come one, come all, come and enjoy my puke-green carpet and mug pictures this close to being inadequate!

1983

This earliest mug sets the template for the design used for the next few years. That’s not to say this was the first to use the same general look, but it’s the earliest that I currently have.

As you can see, it was for WVIZ’s May 7-15, 1983 8-day auction. The pertinent info is on one side, and the other side, obviously, features what I assume was their mascot of the era, a zebra. (Get it? It’s a WVIZebra!). Since the tagline is “THE GREATEST SHOW ON AIR,” the zebra is always airborne in some fashion; this template is used for not only this mug (duh!), but for all the mugs up through 1986; might’ve been around even longer, I dunno.

Anyway, here our zebra mascot is flying in a small airplane, because, uh, air. Of all the mugs in this ‘series’ this might be my favorite, simply because it’s the only one to present the 25 logo in some way. Look close; it’s stamped on the tail of the plane! (That is the tail, right? Look, it’s on the back of the craft, okay?)

1984

Here’s the 1984 edition. As you can see, it’s overall pretty similar-looking, and honestly would be easy for the untrained eye to overlook as a mere duplicate. But it’s not.

Held in May once again, 1984’s auction was also held over 8 days, but this time from the 5th to the 13th. On the other side, with the same slogan, our zebra friend evidently no longer needs an aircraft; he’s sprouted wings with which to soar through the clouds!

Look close, because this was something I totally missed until grabbing pics to put this article together: the zebra’s stripes spell out WVIZ! Nice touch!

1985

Evidently the auction was always held over 8 days in May, because for 1985 it ran from May 4th through the 12th. This brings up a question: does WVIZ (or any PBS affiliate) even still do auctions? Obviously they still run pledge drives where you can get tote bags or what have you, but I personally don’t recall the auctions. Obviously they existed at one point, and it’s not like I would have been paying attention to that sort of thing by the time I was old enough to watch PBS (Sesame Street and such was more my speed at the time), but still, yeah, I don’t remember these exact events. Maybe they still do ’em, I don’t know. Nevertheless, the only thing coming to mind here is that one episode of Cheers where no one wants Sam Malone’s jersey.

Uh oh, our zebra pal is still airborne in this one, but not necessarily in a good way! Dig it: he no longer has a plane, nor does he feature wings. Rather, he’s floating down to earth via parachute! Was there an equipment malfunction somewhere?!

You can just barely make out the W and the Z on his body, the rest being covered by the parachute’s harness; again, nice touch!

1986

Last of the “zebra mugs,” or at least my “zebra mugs.” You know, was the zebra their ongoing mascot in general during this era, or was he just something devised for the auction promotions? I certainly don’t remember him, but again, by the time I was old enough to pay any sort of attention to PBS, he may very well (and appears to have been) long gone.

1986 had the auction running May 3-11, and except for the differing date, yeah, there’s only so much I can think to say about it, except this was the first auction I was technically alive for. Not cognizant of, but alive for.

I might have to rectify that “favorite” statement I bandied about with the 1983 entry, because besides me officially being around for (well, during) the event, this variation features – in my opinion – the coolest “zebra action sequence” of them all: he’s flying! As in, like Superman! Dude’s even got a cape! As a lifelong Supes fan, that’s awesome, even if the relation is only of the most minimal variety. Man, you don’t even need the 25 logo stamped somewhere when you’ve got your mascot doing things like that!

Also: evidently those “WVIZ stripes” don’t extend to the opposite side of the zebra’s torso.

1987 & 1988

Sorry gang, I don’t have mugs for the 1987 and 1988 auctions, if there even were mugs for the 1987 and 1988 auctions. Maybe the original owner didn’t participate those years, or maybe someone inexplicably purchased those two but none of the others, or maybe they don’t even exist. At any rate, I don’t have ’em.

1989

’87 and ’88 may be missing from my collection (for now?), and the zebra apparently went MIA somewhere in the interim, but man, the 1989 edition was a home run, too! The one side merely states “WVIZ Auction ’89,” as you can plainly see here (no mention of the exact dates, but I’ll go out on a limb and say it was probably held in May again).

The other side though, hoo boy does it feature a cool gimmick! BP was apparently a sponsor of some sort, and that plays into the new (?) slogan: “Public Television – A Natural Resource.” Just like gas! Or something along those lines.

To go along with this, the illustration of a TV is used, with the BP logo ‘playing’ on its screen. What’s with the somewhat ‘muted’ coloring of the screen, you ask? That part of the mug is covered with some sort of material that changes colors when a hot beverage is housed within! That’s cool! This site has a page for this mug, and which showcases the hip color-changin’ abilities it holds.

I’m not sure if I like this one more than the 1983 or 1986 editions, but I still really, really like it, and it’s easily the most “technically advanced” mug in the line. Or at least in my WVIZ mug collection as it currently stands, anyway.

(For the record, this was the one mug that was found independently, weeks after the others. Maybe it originally hailed from the same person and just didn’t get put out with the rest at the same time, or maybe it originally came from another auction participant; gotta figure there were more than a few, you know?)

1990

Last one, found at the same time as all the zebra mugs. The image is the same on both sides, and hence, only one picture is needed. (Right?) Unlike the other ones seen in this article, which are all of the ceramic-variety, this one is plastic.

No real slogan, but this one does play up the fact the station was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Since WVIZ went on the air in 1965, that naturally points to this being from, uh, 1990.

Though you know, without the information stamped all over it, I really have no idea if this is technically an auction mug or something merely created to commemorate the event in general. I mean, considering the others it was found with, it’s a safe guess, and that’s the scenario I’m sticking with, but it has to be pointed out that the mug doesn’t actually state such facts. I dig the red color-scheme, which stands in stark contrast to every other example seen in this update.

***

So there you have it, six different auction mugs from Cleveland’s PBS destination, WVIZ TV-25. Given the “public participation” aspect of the channel, it stands to reason that memorabilia from it is a bit more plentiful than from a network (or even independent) station, but nevertheless, TV-related things like this don’t show up every day, so I couldn’t be happier to have them in my ever-growing mass of stuff (i.e., collection).