Tag Archives: vintage

Vintage WUAB-TV 43 & WAKR TV-23 Golf Ball Markers (Circa 1984)

I went Christmas shopping this past Saturday. Well, ostensibly; I did find one thing to check off my list, but came up empty for everyone else. Well, except for me. I did find a few things for me.

I wasn’t trying to – really! This was a mission to get Christmas shopping done, and since I don’t have that many people to buy for, theoretically it could have been completed during this one outing. Several locations were visited over the course of several hours, and where I myself was concerned, I dutifully passed up on some things I considered merely “neato,” because unless something practically jumped out and punched me in the face with awesomeness, I wasn’t going to get anything for my personal collection. It wasn’t an issue of cost either; this was about principle. I was on a specific mission, man!

I made it safely through the day – until the last place I visited. There, as I perused small display boxes made up of compartments filled with various knick knacks, my eyes fell upon the baggie you’re seeing right here. This was one of those cases where I got so immediately excited, so incredibly stoked, that I dropped what I was doing and instantly began extricating it. I knew, I knew, that as long as the price wasn’t prohibitive (and it wasn’t in the slightest), it was coming home with me. And so it did.

I hadn’t been to this antique store in several months (as it has been operating on reduced hours lately), so this must have been a fairly new addition to their wares, because I’d really hate to think my normally-fairly-astute eyes passed over this time and time again. Dig this: two pairs of vintage Northeast Ohio television-branded golf markers, WUAB-43 and WAKR TV-23! Cool winnins!

And Golf markers! If there’s one thing my collection lacks, it’s golf stuff. Not that I have anything against the sport; it’s just that aside from some old school video games and Happy Gilmore, I have little experience with it. Heck, I wouldn’t have even known what these markers were if not for the handy sticker affixed to the baggie notating the contents. This was an entirely unexpected find, but this was also exactly the sort of random TV-related thing I’m always hoping to come across.

(Also picked up for myself at the same time? I rarely drink alcohol, but a vintage Bud Man patch for only a buck was just too cool to pass up.)

It was the old WUAB logo here that first caught my eye, and because I have such an ongoing-affinity for the station, those markers were the ‘biggies’ for me. As you can see, one is pink and one is white, but otherwise they’re identical with the black “half-moon” 43 logo. (“Half-moon” is how *I* refer to this particular iteration of the station I.D., but as far as I know, I’m the only one to do so. Maybe that is the ‘official’ term for it though, I dunno.)

The WAKR markers are less logos and more mere station identifications. Unlike the two WUAB markers, they’re both completely identical to each other. Besides WAKR, WAEZ is also featured; I can only guess that this refers to what later became WONE 97.5 FM, which was WAEZ prior and WAKR-FM before that. There was some kind of connection there, is what I’m sayin’.

I have no idea what the actual age of these markers are. I’m assuming both pair hail from the same general era, but they could have just as easily been, erm, paired up later. WUAB only used that style of logo from, roughly, 1980 to 1986, before going to a full-circular version. WAKR TV-23 became WAKC TV-23 in 1986, and WAEZ became WONE on January 1, 1985. So yeah, I’m sticking with what I used in the title of this update: “circa 1984.” That seems to be a safe guess. At any rate, the WUAB ones have to hail from 1986 or earlier, and the WAKR/WAEZ ones from before January 1, 1985.

Regardless of the actual date(s) that brought these markers forth, they both demonstrate a terrific time in Northeast Ohio television, when quirky local programming and an eclectic line-up of movies and shows was the order of the day. I love that!

Hey, know what I discovered when it came time for a picture-taking session of these earlier today? Golf ball markers aren’t the easiest things in the world to photograph! Not these ones, anyway. Because they’re rounded, they tend to roll ll over when I don’t want them to. Indeed, I had to poke them through a disposable styrofoam plate for the main shots, and to your left here is the best I could come up with as far as a side-view goes. See, they done got lil’ pegs, perfect for plunkin’ down into the ground! These aren’t especially big markers, they’re all the same size, which is roughly that of a regular shirt button (a bit bigger actually, but not by much). They seem to be bright enough to show up on the ground during a golf outing, but I’d have thought they’d be a bit bigger for easier visibility. But then, I’m not a golfer; far be it for me to go tellin’ ’em their business.

The last remaining question for me is: how did someone go about acquiring these originally? They almost seem too niche to be widely-spread promotional items. I have seen golf balls with station logos/I.D, emblazoned on them, so this sort of thing was (is?) not unheard of. Perhaps they were from some industry event? A friendly game between the staffs of 43 and 23? These are things I do not know, and perhaps the finer details of which have become lost to time. (If you’ve got some additional information on them, by all means share it in the comments!)

So, as it stands right now, I’ve still got some Christmas shopping to do, but when I come home with cool promo items such as these to add to the ever-growing collection, well, how can that ever be considered a wasted trip? Like I said earlier, TV-related things like this are what I always hope to come across during my travels; sadly, it doesn’t happen often enough for my liking, but when it does, it’s usually worth the dry spells. Given the last update, I seem to be on some kind of streak right now – hopefully it lasts a bit longer!

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Vintage McDonald’s / WAKR 1590 AM “Adam and Bob in the Morning” Coffee Mug

My friend Jesse found this for me several weeks back. His alert came via text message, with a simple caption of “need?” Yes, Jesse, need. Need now. (Or maybe the caption was “want?” Either way, my response was highly in the affirmative.) Jesse knows I collect broadcasting memorabilia and promotional items, and indeed, some months back it was he that found me an old WVIZ mug that was subsequently covered here. (Would you believe he picked me up another one of those later, too? No foolin’!)

‘Course, if you have thus far callously neglected to scan the title of this post, and still refuse despite my vaguely passive-aggressive reminder right here, you may be looking at this picture and thinking to yourself “broadcasting?” True, the face you’re seeing is just the famous McDonald’s logo. But that font! Those arches! Coupled with the color scheme and design of this plastic coffee mug, the nostalgic vibes emanating forth are still enough to make me unacceptably giddy even without an added attraction. I think we pretty much all grew up with McDonald’s, and If this is as old as I’ll momentarily surmise it to be, well, I can already hear the appropriate jingles of yesteryear ringing in my head. This thing just looks like breakfast at McDonald’s! Fast food or otherwise, I generally skip the first meal of the day, but this has me wanting one of their sausage biscuit things. Or maybe some eggs, provided they served them to me in an old school styrofoam container. (Wait, the eggs did come in styrofoam at one point, didn’t they?)

Ah, but it’s the other side of the mug that not only gives this a broadcasting connection, but a local broadcasting connection to boot. Dig this: the other side is a promo for Akron’s WAKR 1590 AM, specifically their morning show of the 1970s to the 1990s, The Adam and Bob Show. Cool winnins!

No, seriously, this is really, really neato. I’m into radio memorabilia quite a bit less than I am television, but even so, this is legitimately awesome.

Adam and Bob were Adam Jones and Bob Allen. Sadly, Bob Allen passed away in April, 2017. They had a long running show on the station, starting in 1978 and running until either 1991 or 1995. (I’m seeing both years listed online; can anyone confirm which is correct?)

I really don’t think this mug hails from the extreme of the 1990s though, or even the late-1980s. Given the size and shape of it, I’m guessing early-1980s; even though the show started in 1978, I’m not sure they would have been producing mugs of this nature that early on. I mean, maybe they were, but I’m getting the notion (basically just a gut-feeling on my part) that it’s from about 1980. No later than 1984, anyway. That’s my best guess.

(I did a search for the specific WAKR logo seen here to help narrow things down even further, but nothing doing on that front.)

To top it all off, despite some (minimal) wear to the graphics and outer mug in general, I don’t think it was ever used. A little slip of paper was still inside, giving the company info as Whirley Industries of Warren, PA. (I’ve seen/got a few other mugs of similar shape by them, and each one appeared/appears to be of notable vintage.) I just can’t see someone using this, washing it, and then replacing this slip of paper afterwards each and every time. So yeah, I’m guessing it’s technically “new.”

Though, as the instructions make clear, it’s not quite complete; these Whirley travel mugs (officially deemed the “Easy Rider Travel Mug,” as per the pic here) originally came with a ‘holder’ that would be affixed via tape to a flat surface, ostensibly in that of a moving vehicle of some sort, and which would then allow the owner to slide the mug in and out for easy usage and then safe, hands-free holding.

Mine does not include said holder, so maybe the original owner intended to use this only as a “breakfast table” item? Maybe? Or perhaps it was just simply lost over the years? Oh the mysteries this mug presents!

Anyway, the last big question remaining is: how did someone go about obtaining this mug back in the day? The obvious answer is McDonald’s, but I mean how? Did you have to order breakfast and then pay a nominal fee for your collectible local mug? Could you just walk in and buy one alone? Was it included free when you ordered coffee? Oh the mysteries this mug presents!

Or perhaps it was a giveaway from The Adam and Bob Show direct? A call-in trivia prize? Something given away at personal appearances? I just don’t know, but if anyone does, please hit up the comments section and share!

However it was originally obtained, it was certainly put “out there” somehow, much to my eventual intrigue and delight. What a cool mug! It just feels like McDonald’s in that late-1970s/early-1980s era, and the local connection just makes it all the more irresistible. You could drink out of it while perusing the newspaper in the morning, or at work, or maybe even on the drive to work (perhaps all while listening The Adam and Bob Show, even!).

For this lifelong Akronite, that all makes it an indelible addition to the collection. (Thanks Jesse!)

Vintage WVIZ TV-25 Mug

I spent this past weekend dogsitting for my brother. Since I love dogs, especially these dogs, this was no inconvenience, but my wonderful generosity meant that the typical thrift store adventures weren’t going to happen. Since my main hobby is digging through stuff people couldn’t see fit to hold onto, well, let’s just say I don’t like being taken out of my comfort-zone.

Also, my cellphone is apparently not right in the head; I discovered that the only way to charge it without it constantly resetting/freezing/angering me to the point of violence is to shut it down completely and charge it that way.

It was immediately following one such charge-session that my reawakened phone alerted me to a text from my good friend Jesse. Jesse knows that I collect broadcasting memorabilia, and helpfully keeps an eye for me, which I certainly appreciate – especially when other duties keep me from hitting up stores myself, as was the case in this particular instance.

And boy, he found me a doozy: a vintage plastic mug for Cleveland & Akron PBS affiliate WVIZ TV-25! Cool winnins! Thanks Jesse!

My eyes were immediately drawn to the logo used. Logopedia sez this style was used from 1978 all the way up to 2000, but the exact variation of it as seen here (solid color, font of the call letters, etc.), coupled with the styling of the mug itself, methinks it almost certainly has to come from, if not the late-1970s then at least the early-1980s.

An online search, both via Google and eBay, told me nothing. In fact, besides the logo info and gut feelings on my part, I really don’t know much more about this mug than what I’ve already shared. It doesn’t take a giant leap to assume it was part of an annual pledge drive, though. I mean, that slogan “I’m part of the picture,” how could that not be pledge-related? Since PBS is, you know, funded by the public, this mug was (presumably) proof that the one using it made up a piece of the fabric that was public television in the Cleveland / Akron market at the time. Or something like that.

When it comes to PBS in the Northeast Ohio, there were, and are, two choices: WVIZ of course, but also WNEO-45/WEAO-49, which serves Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown – and more? Go read about it yourself on that Wikipedia link.

Anyway, from where I’m situated, I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t pull in both affiliates. Sure, much of the programming was identical, but just like the WEWS/WAKC ABC situation here up through the mid-1990s, we got both. I didn’t really understand it growing up, but looking back, it’s sorta neat.

Of the two, I prefer WVIZ, but that’s not an opinion being swayed by this mug; it’s just the one I’m more used to, though there are points in my history where it’s been an even-split.

Still, my fondness for 25 increased my happiness with this mug, absolutely.

Like any other Northeast Ohio kid, a good portion of my formative years were spent with PBS. Sure, every kid watched Sesame Street, but for me, there was also Bob Ross, The Frugal Gourmet, and This Old House, all of which also colored my childhood. Or course, nowadays I can’t paint to save my life, asking me to cook anything but the most basic of meals is an exercise in frustration, and attempting to build anything beyond a paper airplane is just asking for a trip to the emergency room, but still, it was nice growing up with all that.

And believe it or not, it’s all running through my mind when I look at this mug, even though it’s (probably) a bit before my time and I never actually saw an example of it until this last Saturday. Go figure!

Vintage WTRF TV-7 Matchbook Covers

“W-where ya been, North Video Guy?”

Yes, I’m still around. The long (well, long-ish) absence has been due to my Wi-Fi at home being extremely spotty. Like, only working 1/4 of the time spotty, and when it does go, it’s generally only at night when I just don’t feel like assembling anything resembling a cohesive article to my eight loyal readers. Plus, I’ve been busy with other idiotic projects and whims and so ons and so forths. You know how it goes.

But, the Wi-Fi, as of this moment, seems to be working adequately enough to try for a quick update. Don’t expect an incredibly long article here gang, but luckily, there’s only so much I can say about the subject(s) at hand, so it’s unintentionally kinda fortuitous.

As is evident from my last post 17,000 years ago, I love promotional television memorabilia. I’d say the older the better, but frankly, things from the 1960s to 1980s time span are what I prefer to search for. (Not that I’d turn away anything older or newer, mind you.) And on that front, I recently, as in just last week, obtained some incredibly cool pieces. Did you look at the title of this article? Look at the title.

A recent trip to a nearby thrift store presented me with a big honkin’ bag of old matchbooks, most from long gone local locations, but also plenty from vacation destinations around the U.S. Assuming they all came from the same person originally (as opposed to the store merely throwing a bunch together to entice suckers like me), this party apparently enjoyed traveling and had a burning desire to get a unique matchbook from every square inch of their journey. This was ultimately to my benefit, because even though the bag was sealed up tight, I could see several matchbooks just on the outside that told me this was worth the purchase, including one featuring the logo of WTRF TV-7. And so, here we are.

WTRF is the CBS affiliate for the Steubenville, Ohio / Wheeling, West Virginia area, and while my personal location in this country of ours means that I’m infinitely more familiar with the Cleveland/Akron television market, I do have some experience with WTRF. Enough to get me fired up when I saw the matchbook, anyway. (Read all about WTRF on Wikipedia.)

I found lotsa good stuff in the bag, and there were actually two WTRF matchbooks included, both of which we will now take a look at. Both also featured advertising info for Elby’s Restaurants, which either was or eventually became part of the Big Boy chain, on the opposite sides. Because I’m on a time limit of unknown duration (Wi-Fi, you know) and because I couldn’t get acceptable pictures of those sides on my phone (flash, you know), I’m going to forego those aspects of the matchbooks and keep the focus on the TV-stuff. They’re more conducive to the purposes of this blog as a whole, anyway.

This book here was the second I found in the lot, buried deep within its confines and thus not visible from the outside. According to the WTRF page on Logopedia, it’s the older of the two, and as such, is also my favorite of the two. Logopedia sez this exact style of logo was only used from 1972 to 1976, though a similar one was present from 1967 to 1972. It’s either old or older, and either way that’s mega cool winnins for yours truly.

I really like the “7” in the TV-like border, but you know what makes this one? It’s the slogan: “The colorful TV station.” That’s just such a cool reminder of the time in which it hails; when stations could still play up the whole “we’re in color!” aspect. I don’t know how much longer channels could get away with that (wasn’t color the de facto norm by the 1970s?), but its presence here instantly marks this matchbook as a true product of a bygone era in television broadcasting. I dig it!

Now, this second matchbook is actually the first one I found; it was the one visible from the outside of the bag in which the entire lot was housed. Seriously, I pretty much bought a hundred or more matchbooks for this one alone. (Well, this one and the promise of more neato finds to be had – a promise that was eventually fulfilled!)

When it comes to WTRF, this was the logo I was most familiar with. (Remember, my familiarity with channel is relatively limited in scope.) That “7” featuring the Ohio-West Virginia-Pennsylvania borders within is ridiculously clever, and the “Call it home” slogan apropo; lotsa people from different territories finding common ground in one aspect of life. Or something like that (it plays out more articulately in my head).

Logopedia sez this particular style of identification was long-lived, lasting from 1980 to 1999. As such, this one is a bit harder to date than the other matchbook. But, compared to the other covers in the lot, I’m inclined to say this one hails from earlier in the 1980s than from later. But heck, even if it came from the extreme of 1999 (highly unlikely), it’s still promotional television advertising, and thus worthy of inclusion in my collection of…stuff.

So there you have it. Not a long update, but an update nonetheless, and one featuring some very cool TV-related pieces to boot! Like I said before, most of my expertise (ha!) resides in the Cleveland-Akron television markets (and to an extent, Canton, too). As such, stations that also reside (or at least air) in Ohio but are out of my reach tend to have an almost “exotic” feel to me, and I mean that in absolutely the most complimentary way possible. These matchbooks certainly qualify, and I count myself fortunate to have stumbled upon them.

There! Maybe I’ll update again sometime within the next 20 decades! We’ll see!

Vintage WDSM TV-6 DIALING FOR DOLLARS Keychain

I’m going to go outside of Northeast Ohio (but not the Midwest) for this update, because it’s my blog and I’ll do whatever I want. There’s only so much I can say about the subject, both because of its nature and because I’m neither from the area nor era in which it hails, but this is such a neat piece of vintage television memorabilia that it needs to be archived. Even if said archiving is on my stupid dumb website.

Backstory: I’m a big fan of the various incarnations of the Dialing For Dollars franchise that aired nationwide (though each market got their own locally-produced version). You may or may not recall this was a daily program, typically airing in the late morning or early afternoon, in which a movie was shown and viewers were phoned live on-the-air during breaks and given the opportunity to win a cash prize – a jackpot that would increase for the next lucky person called if the one prior failed to win it. Certain game play details could vary from iteration to iteration, but Wikipedia has an excellent write-up on the normative format and program in general.

Obviously, with the live, daytime format and lengthy block of time it would take up, having a regularly-scheduled Dialing For Dollars today just isn’t feasible. Too many people work during the day or are busy streaming inconsequential crap on their smartphones to pay enough attention to something like this now. Still, there’s little doubt it was a wildly successful movie showcase across the U.S. for decades, and as an example of not only television history but local television history, the “cool factor” is off the charts.

Here in Northeast Ohio, we had Prize Movie on WUAB TV-43, which wasn’t quite the same format as Dialing For Dollars but still had the ideal of live callers, daily movies and (potentially) big money prizes at heart. ‘Course, if you headed Youngstown way, you could see WFMJ TV-21’s Dialing For Dollars, as well as the Money Movie over on WKBN TV-27. Whether you could get those stations in my particular neck of the woods probably depended on weather conditions and/or how cheap you decided to be when you purchased your rabbit ears. You better reach deeper in them pockets if you want extra channels, sport!

(There was also something called the Bingo Movie on Canton’s WOAC TV-67 in the 1980s, which I can only guess was similar in spirit if not in practice.)

ANYWAY, Finding artifacts pertaining to Dialing For Dollars is a little tricky; for obvious reasons, there weren’t any official video releases of these programs (to the best of my knowledge), and besides, a good many of these aired either before or during the infancy of the home video era. (Though some, such as our Prize Movie, ran well into the 1990s; it really all depended on the market.)

So, that leaves the, as I like to call them, “supplementals.” You know, the promotional items. Things like glasses, mugs, TV listings and advertisements, and as our subject today demonstrates, keychains. I collect television-related stuff like this anyway, but Dialing For Dollars is an area of extreme particular interest in that, erm, area.

(Boy, I sure killed the end of that paragraph dead.)

And that brings us to the eBay-purchased promotional item you’re seeing to the right. From WDSM TV-6 of Duluth and Superior, MN, it’s a vintage keychain spotlighting their local version of Dialing For Dollars. I don’t know what year(s) it hails from exactly, but since Wikipedia tells me WDSM became KBJR in 1974, it’s at least as old as that. Neato!

The ring and chain project some old-timey vibes, as in I can’t see a modern day keychain using either style (unless they do; it’s not like I keep heavy tabs on this stuff) but it’s really all about the Dialing For Dollars fob here. It looks like a film reel! And check out the “R,” or rather, the swoop (?) coming off of it: it looks like a strip of film! Apropo! Also, lotsa dollar signs, because big money was at hand and it was just waiting for you, yes you, to win it!

Look, the thing is just cool, okay? I’m going to assume it’s an approximation of the actual logo used for the show, but that’s merely guesswork on my part and based on nothing substantial whatsoever.

I don’t know who hosted WDSM’s iteration of Dialing For Dollars, nor do I know for how long. A Google search told me nothing. TV Guides from the area would probably reveal some print ads for the program, but without knowing some rough dates, searching out appropriate issues on eBay could quite conceivably be like the proverbial needle in a haystack, and while I’m always up for a quest, I’m far too broke to attempt such a thing right now.

That’s my long-winded way of saying that anyone with any memories and/or info pertaining to WDSM’s Dialing For Dollars is invited to hit the comments and share what they know. See, this is an interactive site!

The other side of the fob features the station identification and location. More $$$igns, and look close for the covert, kinda-easy-to-miss “6.”

I wonder how people could obtain this keychain back in the day? A giveaway at personal appearances by whoever hosted the show? A consolation prize to those who failed to win the mighty dollars? I don’t know, but it’s definitely cool.

You’re not getting a true sense of scale from my pictures, and I don’t really feel like digging out a measuring implement to give exact dimensions, but the fob is about the size of a larger coin, as in it’s positively quarter-ish. Minus Abraham Lincoln’s George Washington’s visage plastered all over it, of course.

In fact, remember those Sacagawea dollar coins nobody really liked? Maybe they still strike them, but either way, I refuse to believe their inspiration was anything other than this Dialing For Dollars fob. Yep, you can spit facts about the legendary woman and her helping Lewis & Clark at me all day, I’ll still maintain an obscure, regional keychain was the actual catalyst. An exercise in frustration for you, an excerise in amusement for me.

I don’t know what this keychain is made of. Obviously the fob is shiny and plated in gold or some gold-like substance. Could be 22 karats for all I know. The actual ring and chain look to have some mild tarnishing, as you’d expect of something this age, but there’s no rust anywhere on it, so it’s made of whatever is resistant to those substances.

All things considered, it’s in exponentially good condition. A little tarnishing, a little wear, but since it’s at the very least 44 years old, that’s beyond minor. I’ll guess whoever originally owned this never actually used it. However they got it, maybe they either babied it, or it got thrown in a drawer and forgotten about. Hey, we’ve all got stuff like that. I know I do.

So there you have it, WDSM TV-6 of Duluth and Superior, Minnesota and their local incarnation of the Dialing For Dollars franchise, immortalized as an old promotional keychain. Like I said before, I don’t know who hosted the series or for how long, and I have no idea as to the specific details of its format, either. And you know, it occurred to me that this exact keychain could have shown up nationwide, with only the station I.D. on the back varying from location to location. I mean, I’ve never seen one, but then, I’ve never seen another one like this, either.

WDSM wasn’t the only Minnesota television station to have a program of this nature, by the way. WDIO TV-10 (also of Duluth) and WIRT TV-13 of Hibbing ran the Matinee Money Movie, hosted by Lance Parthé, for a period. Maybe its run coincided with this Dialing For Dollars at some point, I dunno. I’d like a keychain representing that show too, though.

VHS Review: BATMAN & ROBIN Widescreen Edition (1998; Warner Home Video)

I don’t have a ton to say about this one, because it’s shrinkwrapped and I can’t bring myself to crack the seal. Now granted, it’s not factory shrinkwrapped; judging by the amount of wear on the box itself, this is almost certainly a used copy that was re-shrinkwrapped at some point. A former rental, perhaps? I don’t know, but the fact remains I can’t work up the nerve to rip the plastic off.

And why’s that? Because this is Batman & Robin, that of generally-poorly-regarded late-90’s sensibilities, on VHS. Of course, under normal circumstances this isn’t an even remotely tough movie to find on the format, and indeed, we took a look at a one such example years ago.

Still, why the need to keep this as minty sealed fresh (such as it is) as possible? Take a look at the red banner string across the top edge of this tape, because that’s what makes this one special. It’s the widescreen edition! That’s cool! And evidently fairly rare; I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person before landing this copy, I’ve seen none for sale on eBay (currently or in the past), and Amazon turned up nothing upon keyword searches.

In fact, it wasn’t until I did a Google image search that I found a single shot of the mythical beast, which linked to this Amazon listing, which oddly enough I couldn’t figure out how to bring up otherwise. Maybe it’s a UPC thing. (Look, I did the legwork for you!). There were exactly two used copies for sale there, I bought the cheaper one, and here we are.

Aside from that banner along the top (and which extends to the sides, FYI), the front cover is identical to the ‘normal’ VHS release; you know, Arnold in his career-defining role as Mr. Freeze, looming above wildly miscast George Clooney as Batdude and Chris O’Donnell as Robin, plus Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Seriously, if you hit up thrift stores as often as I do, you’ve seen this cover approximately six thousand times by this point. Except for, you know, that banner

That Amazon page is really my only resource for this release, and it tells me that it hit shelves on April 14, 1998, several months after the regular edition, which according to Amazon dropped on October 21, 1997. There was no small amount of negative press leveled at the movie, so it’s a little surprising to me that Warner Bros. thought there’d be enough demand to warrant a widescreen edition, especially one so many months later. I’m assuming the print run was pretty low, which would explain why there are quite possibly only two copies in the entire universe. Approximately, I mean.

Actually, for the most part, the print runs of widescreen VHS editions in the 1990s seems to have been lower in general. I pay special attention to these while out and about, and I even keep an eye on online auctions, and they tend to show up much less often than their full screen counterparts. There are exceptions of course, but apparently widescreen VHS editions of movies were a pretty niche category throughout the 1990s and even into the 2000s; maybe widescreen didn’t truly catch on until DVD flourished, I don’t know.

For example, I think I see at least one copy of that double VHS Saving Private Ryan set every time I’m out – the full screen edition, that is. And yet, just a couple of weeks ago, I finally found the seemingly-less-common widescreen one, which naturally became mine. Jurassic Park is another one; I’m not talking about the later THX edition with the shiny cover and all that, but rather an earlier copy that, like Batman & Robin here, looks identical to the full screen edition except for a red banner along the top edge. I stumbled upon that version by happenstance at Goodwill a few months back, and there was no way it wasn’t going home with me.

1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns also received the widescreen treatment on VHS, and while there’s a bit more evidence supporting them out there, even those don’t show up frequently at all. I’m not sure 1995’s Batman Forever even got a widescreen VHS – though eBay listings say otherwise; I’m guessing they’re auto-listings repeating an error over and over, because every time I tape a closer look, it’s the regular full screen tape.

I just realized not everyone may know what widescreen (or letterbox, as it was/is also called) refers to. Wikipedia explains it better than I ever could, but simply put, it’s the preservation of a film’s original ‘wide’ theatrical aspect ratio on home video, rather than cropping, panning and scanning for a 4:3 screen. Of course, we have big ol’ widescreen TVs and Blu-ray and whatnot now, so it’s not much of a big deal anymore, but back in the standard-definition television days, widescreen was the way to go if you wanted to see the whole movie. Yes, the image was technically smaller, with big black bars along the bottom and top of the screen “sandwiching” the film in the middle, but you got the entire image, and that was the important thing.

Does Batman & Robin benefit from this enhancement? It’d take more than letterbox to save the movie, but then, maybe that’s why I get such a big kick out of this release. “Well, it’s not a very good movie, but at least now we can see all of it…”

Plus, I just like widescreen in general. As such, I try to pick up these versions whenever I can. Or more truthfully, I like to get both pan-and-scan and widescreen copies when possible, not unlike both mono and stereo LPs.

Like the front cover, the back cover for the widescreen edition of Batman & Robin is practically identical to the full screen version you trip over while walking down the street. The only real differences are the additions of a 1998 copyright date added to the fine print and the box at the bottom explaining the widescreen situation (as opposed to the usual “this film has been formatted…” line). Look, Batman & Robin‘s 1:85:1 aspect ratio hath been preserved!

If you go back and read my older article on the full screen edition of the tape (albeit a Blockbuster-branded one, hence the article in the first place), you’ll see I felt the descriptive summary on the back cover was a little “out there.” All these years later, widescreen or not, that feeling remains. In lieu of re-sharing my thoughts in a slightly altered form, I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote then, because you can’t plagiarize yourself and it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want: “My favorite part is the mention of ‘New very special effects…’, as if these special effects are substantially more special than your usual , run-of-the-mill special effects. I love this tape. Also, ‘From our Batfamily to yours’? That’s adorable Give me a break.”

Batman & Robin is one of those movies I’m inexplicably fond of. Yes, the negative buzz surrounding it is warranted. BUT, it’s such an artifact of late-1990s Hollywood and the period of my life in which it falls, that I just can’t hate it. In fact, I’m going to quote myself again here, because like I said, my blog, my rules: “Despite the fact the movie is one of the worst things ever, I have an inexplicable fondness for the film. Well, not really for the film per se. More for the time period and where it falls in my lifetime. Going further into all that would be a huge digression, so let me stay kinda on track here. Batman & Robin: I remember the release, I remember (and sampled) the Taco Bell tie-in promotion, and I remember the revelation that it apparently made theater-goers cry. I wouldn’t know, though; we tried to go see it, but the only available-to-us showing was sold out, so we settled for, I’m pretty sure, Men In Black.”

Look, this is all my half-hearted way of trying to close this one out. Like I said before, I can only say so much about a sealed tape. And besides, today the prospect of a widescreen version of this movie isn’t so novel anymore; you’ve been able to see it this way since it hit DVD, as far as I know. (Wasn’t it a flipper disc, with full screen on one side, widescreen on the other? I have an old DVD copy boxed away, but I refuse to dig it up for an article approximately four people are going to read.)

Still, a widescreen VHS copy of Batman & Robin, that’s pretty neat. I don’t know how long it was in print or for how long it was sold, but in my experience, it’s not easily found nowadays. Since the regular VHS version had that late-90s home video charm in spades, it stands to reason that the special widescreen edition does as well, though I’ll admit the feeling of ‘exclusivity’ takes away from the mass-market, mainstream appeal of the version you usually come across. Or something like that.

I don’t know where exactly I’m going with this. Look, 1997’s Batman & Robin, they put it out on a widescreen VHS, and you’ve just see the proof. THE END.

Video Rental Artifact: ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991; 1992 Blockbuster-Branded VHS)

Sometimes when I’m out hunting for this or that and I find a VHS tape that strikes my stupid dumb fancy, it’s not always just about the tape itself. I mean, yeah, it helps when I have at least some vested interest in the release proper, but oftentimes there are ‘supplemental’ features that will take a a tape from “well, alright, I guess” to “must must must buy and you can’t stop me and if you try I’ll throw down legit.” Today’s subject is a definite example of the latter.

(HINT: I’ve been down this route before.)

Before we get to that, let me provide a little backstory first: It’s 1991, I’m five, and the big budget Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is seemingly aimed directly at me and my kind. Kenner put out a neato toy line that, unbeknownst to me then, was chock full of re-purposed molds. (Y’all get genuine props for reusing the Ewok village as Robin’s forest fortress, Kenner!) There was even a Nintendo game that, I discovered years later, was actually pretty good (a rarity in the world of NES movie-based carts).

The marketing worked, and just like a year earlier when I jumped on the Dick Tracy bandwagon hardcore (or at least as hardcore as is possible for a four-year old), little me was all about the Hood. Erm, Robin Hood, I mean. Dad took me to see the film in theaters, and frankly, I don’t remember much about it, but it was probably a bit too dark for a five-year old.

Nevertheless, there’s some definite nostalgia on my part now when I look back at Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It’s not a film I’ve revisited in the 27 years that have elapsed, but yeah, nostalgia. Plus, it’s a film I can conceivably see myself revisiting nowadays, which is no small feather in its cap, or arrow, or [insert further Robin Hood-themed pun here].

The VHS release of this movie is not even remotely hard to find. Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of movies from that era, which for the longest time were seemingly ever-present used, are not as commonly found nowadays. I’m not saying they’re rare, not at all, but unless it’s ’89 Batman, Jurassic Park or (looking ahead a bit) Titanic, you’re not always guaranteed a quick find while out hitting up the thrift stores and whatnot for VHS. (It’s not a dead format thing – yet – either, because I still come across a lot of VHS during my travels.)

No kidding, it took far longer than I care to admit to stumble across Cop and a Half, another one I saw in the theater back in the day, until I finally, finally did, several weeks back. It was a moment of triumph, flourish, and bravado that, quite frankly, I probably shouldn’t be so ready to admit. Of course, once I finally found that copy, some two weeks later I came across another one; I picked that one up too, on principle alone.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is, in my mostly-useless experience, not one such release. Hardly a thrift run goes by that I don’t come across one or more copies of the flick on VHS. As such, nostalgia notwithstanding, I’ve never felt much need to throw one in the cart when I’m out and about and picking up too much crap I don’t really need, because it’s pretty much always available.

But then, this copy came into my life, and that all changed.

Several weeks back, during a fairly impromptu thrift trip, the location of choice had somewhat refreshed their home video shelves, which meant there was a decent selection of obsolete media for yours truly to gawk at. I didn’t see much worth buying at first glance, but then I happened to take a closer look at the copy of Robin Hood that was laying there, of which I had previously paid little attention. This was fortuitous because, man, I had inadvertently stumbled upon not only something that tied into my formative years, but was also a legitimate artifact of the video rental-era – an era that was also a part of my formative years!

Behold! It’s a vintage Blockbuster Video-branded copy of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves! Cool winnins!

I’m always on the lookout for tapes like this, and while Blockbuster-emblazoned stuff isn’t very hard to find, in my (again, mostly-useless) experience, tapes prior to 1995 or so show up much less frequently. (This is from 1992; hold your water, you’ll see proof in a moment.)

Of course, as far as the sleeve goes, this branding extends only to the shrinkwrap; the jacket itself is your common, garden-variety Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves VHS sleeve, what with the title and Kevin Costner with his flamin’ arrow and whatnot. If I were to be foolish enough to remove said shrinkwrap, outside appearances would belie the real history of the tape.

And that history, the very fact this is such a relic of the video rental-era (at or very near its height, no less), when Blockbuster was veritable king of the VHS world, that alone makes this tape worth the 60 cents the thrift store was asking for it. You could claim that I’m flippin’ my beans over that swanky old school “previously viewed” sticker, and I am weird enough to buy a tape just for something like that, but it’s really the whole package with this one. Like I said, this is a legitimate artifact of early-1990s home video! The fact I have real history with the movie just makes it all the better; I wouldn’t be as happy if this were a copy of Curly Sue, for example. (Sorry, Jim Belushi.)

That particular “special price sticker” on the front isn’t something I come across often at all when it comes to used VHS buying; usually, it’s those square yellow stickers from the mid-90s or circular red ones of later years that I find affixed to my obsolete video formats.

But it’s the sticker on the back of the sleeve (well, shrinkwrap) that puts this one over the top, though. Dig this: this copy of the movie was placed out for sale on February 9, 1992! And look, it was only $9.95! This was a time when you could get away with charging that much for a used VHS tape! (Though, granted, wasn’t $9.95 like $600 in 1992 dollars?)

In a nice turn of events, there was no description on the back of the sleeve for the sticker to obscure, though the fine technical print wasn’t so fortunate. Still, you get the typical ballyhoo of quotes and taglines and whatnot. And look, recorded on BASF tape!

I’m not sure when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves debuted on home video. In the U.S., it hit theaters on June 14, 1991, and while home video releases didn’t move as quickly then as they do now (or so it seems to me), I would assume it was out in time for the Christmas season. At any rate, by early ’92, this particular Blockbuster location had a used copy out for sale. I’m going to guess that this was a holdover from an initial “rental push,” after it first debuted on VHS. That’s my theory, anyway; early-92 seems pretty close to when this would have initially hit rental shelves. Or not; what do I know?

As I said, remove the shrinkwrap (not that I ever will), and that video rental lineage mostly goes away, but slide the tape out of the sleeve, and there’s a piece of evidence a bit more solid…

Ah, the famous “y’all betta rewind” reminder! As per the norm, slapped right over the left window of the tape! Thas adorable. And look, the previous owner did NOT rewind all the way to the start! Despite that being the benefit of owning a tape yourself, I still demand restitution. But from whom?!

I’m not sure why the title “label” on the tape, which is actually just printed right on the casing itself, is upside down though. Was this normal, or a mistake? I come across plenty of Robin Hood tapes, so I really should know this, but I, uh, don’t.

Actually, during a thrift trip just two nights ago, one store had not one but two copies of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on VHS for sale. Well, technically, one plus a sleeve; the first copy was legit, but the other one had what appeared to be a blank tape mistakenly (?) housed in the sleeve, and severely molded to boot. The ‘real’ one, however, I checked, and it had an actual label on the tape, placed right side up. Maybe a later pressing? I don’t know, but my attempts at sleep later were relatively tortured, and there’s the slight possibility that it was a subconscious reaction to this Robin Hood conundrum.

None of this really matters and I’m clearly just babbling now.

(EDIT: The label as seen here is normal; I’ve since verified it with yet another stumbled-across copy while out thrifting. I didn’t buy it, but maybe I should have…)

Anyway, I’m not going to play this; what would the point be? I can get a “watching copy” at essentially any time I please; heck, I had yet another chance just the other evening! And probably another one later today! And besides, for the purpose of this article, what could I really say? “It’s Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, on, uh, VHS…” The quality will be fine, SP, not up to the standards of DVD, but then, would you expect it to be?

No no, this particular copy hath been deemed my “collector’s copy,” and as such deserves a place of honor. Like a shiny display case or something, maybe with a rotating stand. You know, like how they show off rotisserie chickens at the grocery store. No, wait, that might end badly…

Really, I get a big kick out of this find. As mentioned, I have childhood memories of not only the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but also the associated merchandising hype that went along with it. Add to that definitive evidence of Blockbuster Video’s heyday, which lends an even more decidedly early-90s ambiance to the proceedings, and you’ve got something that could really be considered special. If you’re into old home video, anyway.

On a final, related note: you can almost be guaranteed that if I ever come across a copy of 1989’s Batman, or even 1992’s Batman Returns, with similar Blockbuster-branding all over it, there’s a good possibility you’ll hear my giddy exclamations from wherever you may currently be situated.