I’m getting old. I guess I’m supposed to have outgrown toys and comics and video games and Toughskins. The problem is that I haven’t. I still love them all with the same insane fervor that I displayed when I was ten years old. How else do you explain an apartment so cluttered with action figures and comics that I barely have room to walk? How do you explain that when I bring a date home I have to rush around in a mad panic to hide my various Star Trek and Transformers action figures. Nothing says, “Let’s get it on,” quite like the dramatic battle between Kirk and the Gorn, recreated in painstaking detail with action figures.
As you can see from the title, this article is about my absolute favorite toys from when I was a kid. These might not be the best toys I ever had. In fact, they might be pure crap, but they’re the toys that I had and still remember with shocking clarity. And this is from a guy who can’t remember where he parked half the time, even though my car has been sitting in my car port with a blown tranny. Uh. I mean bad transmission.
So, without further ado, here’s the nine toys that I cried, screamed, and begged for when I was ten years old.
1) BIG JIM
As you can see from the photo below, Big Jim is a little, uh, homoerotic. But back then I had no idea what “gay” meant. I wasn’t even allowed to watch Three’s Company. To me, Big Jim was just a kick ass action figure in red boxers. Okay, not really. The Big Jim that I had was more of a wilderness dude, complete with gnarly beard, backpack, and flannel shirt. I have a feeling that if MY Big Jim met the Big Jim in the picture below, there’d be some serious gay bashing going on. Wilderness Big Jim wasn’t known for his tolerance.
2) EVEL KNIEVEL STUNT CYCLE
How cool was Evel Knievel? Here was a guy who would strap himself onto a rocket and shoot himself across a canyon at unbelievable speeds. What kid wouldn’t look up to that lunacy? Is it any surprise that the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle makes my list of cool toys? There was only one problem with it. Within two minutes of removing the cycle from its box, it was broken. That may explain why they routinely sell on ebay for more than Sparks makes in a year.
3) THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN ACTION FIGURE
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better . . . stronger . . . faster.” When Oscar Goldman spoke those fateful words at the beginning of each episode, I’m pretty sure that he had the Six Million Dollar Man Action Figure in mind. This thing was the shit: bionic grip, telescopic eye, removable bionics in his arm, and bionic legs. Best of all, you could roll the skin up and actually see the bionics. Just like in real life! With his casual red jumpsuit and perfectly coiffed hair, could any kid, boy or girl, resist this toy? The answer is no.
Take an ugly-ass alien looking mofo and attach approximately twenty suction cups to his body. What do you have? Suckerman. Back in the day, Suckerman came in two colors: red and black. I received black and my brother got red. How much fun could you have with Suckerman? Not a helluva lot. He was basically good for throwing at windows and sticking there; maybe once in a while a trip to the shower or bathtub with you. The water in the tub made Suckerman’s suction cups stick to the bottom of the tub like super glue. It was damn near impossible to get him to let go. The problem with that was that the suction cups would tear off. Suckerman was kind of useless.
5) RUBIK’S CUBE
I remember the first day I got my first (and only) Rubik’s Cube. It was Christmas, 1980. I figured it couldn’t be too difficult to solve. After all, it started out solved. I just had to reverse the moves that I used to mess it up. Right? I’m sure I’m not the only one to find out just how wrong I was. Well, I was anal even back then. I couldn’t stand for the Cube to be in disarray, so I cheated. Now, most kids would probably just break the Cube, move the individual squares around, and “solve” it that way. Not me. Oh no, not me. I had to take the stickers off and reapply them in the correct order. Yes, that’s just a sample of how stupid I was when I was a kid. On the bright side, I finally figured out how to solve the stupid puzzle. It took me fifteen years, but I got the moves down. Just ask any of my friends. They’re reminded of my mad skillz pretty much every time I drink.
6) ATARI 2600
What look back at classic toys would be complete with the Holy Grail of pre-fun toys, the Atari 2600. If you’re younger than thirty, then you’re probably laughing, but everybody old enough knows that this was the SHIT. Sure, we all love the Wii and Xbox 36o, but long before that there was the system that made all those others systems possible by testing the market with the crappiest, most inane games ever. Anyone who’s ever played the 2600 version of Pac-Man can attest to the fact that once you got the pattern down, you could quite literally go on forever. In fact, a childhood friend of mine is still playing a game that he started in 1982.
A lot of the 2600 games were like that. Once you discovered a surefire pattern, there was no stopping you. But this was before you could actually WIN at video games. You just played for points. So, in a game like “River Raid”, you were never actually going to defeat the enemy. You were destined to die in a futile attempt to rid that peaceful riverfront land of the boats, planes, and helicopters that plagued it. No matter how high you climbed, you’d never defeat “Donkey Kong”. It just wasn’t going to happen. If you wanted to win, look somewhere else. Go play cards or “Scrabble”, Mary.
I think that’s what’s wrong with kids today. They expect to win. They were raised by video games to believe that if you just kept at it, you could win. They don’t know what my generation knows. You are doomed to die. You will never win. Play for days on end. There is never an end. That’s what we call a “life lesson”.
7) DAISY RED RYDER BB GUN
If I were a kid today and my parents gave me a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun for my tenth birthday, they’d probably be taken out and skinned alive by the PC police. Thank god I was a child of the 80s. This was definitely one of the best presents that I ever got. BB gun wars with my brother, shooting crap (literally–we shot at dog shit), props in my Super 8 movies–this gun was a blessing. It only went downhill when my parents, out of some warped sense of fairness, gave my brother his own gun. it wasn’t long before I felt the sting of BB on ass. I got even, though. I shot him in the face with an arrow. That’ll learn ya.
I’ll freely admit it. I love Lego to this day. A couple of years back a friend got me a Lego Undersea Playset and I absolutely loved it (and still do). A few Christmases ago a friend got me the Star Wars “Droid Escape” Lego Kit (featuring a Lego Threepio and Artoo). I damn near wept. This past Christmas I enjoyed my first Lego Advent Calendar. When I was a kid we didn’t have all these big playsets and specialty Lego. We had blocks. That was it. Big long rectangular blocks, and smaller square blocks. There were other shapes, but these were 98% of the Lego you had to use when building. As a result, most of the time I built really huge, tall towers. And, of course, every kid regardless of when you were born, knows that the best part about building something with Lego is destroying it in the most vicious way possible.
9) MATTEL’S ELECTRONIC FOOTBALL
This game represents hope, failure, tragedy, and redemption. I only hope that no other product I ever encounter grabs me by the guts and twists the way this bit of plastic heaven did. Before I discovered girls or comics or white fudge covered Oreos, I LUSTED after this game. The clicking sounds of the buttons being pressed in an insane, take-no-prisoners frenzy were like a rhythmic soundtrack to my awkward tween years. The electronic music would hum like a Siren’s song when you scored a touchdown. The hypnotic, jewel-like LED lights that would blink in a mesmerizing staccato as you raced downfield for that tantalizing goal were like a philosophy lesson in Zen Buddhism.
This game was the Nintendo DS for people my age when we were kids.
Great Jesus, how I wanted this toy. One Christmas I begged my parents, grandparents, Santa, and the creepy guy who hung around the playground offering free candy for just one present – Mattel’s Electronic Football. I vividly recall lying in bed as Christmas approached punching the buttons on a calculator in a pitifully sad effort to duplicate the sound and feeling of Electronic Football. I was like a crack addict, but only the pushers at Mattel could supply my habit.
Christmas morning finally arrived. Clothes *yawn*, books *yawn*, toys *yawn*. It looked like my dream would die and it would be back to playing the calculator. But wait! There was one more present under the tree! It was about the right size . . . maybe a little bulky, but that was probably extra nine volt batteries or something. I tore into it with the fervor of a lion ripping into a wildebeest. Yes! Electric Football!
Oh. Oh wait. No no no no no. Electronic, not electric. What cruel joke was this? My grandma was old, but even she had to know the wonder of Mattel’s Electronic Football.
But it wasn’t to be. I had “Electric” Football by Galoob. I HATED this game, learning to loathe it for simply existing. If it hadn’t existed, then my grandma wouldn’t have confused it with Mattel’s far superior version. In retrospect, it wasn’t actually that terrible of a game, but it didn’t have the buttons! That’s all I really wanted. Plus, there was no way I was bringing this bulky sideshow to school. Kids are pretty merciless. If you don’t have the name brand, you are socially dead.
My parents took pity on me and decided to shut up my screaming and just buy me Electronic Football. The irony is that the toy I eventually got wasn’t by Mattel, but it had a pass and kick function, so I opted for the new model. And the buttons were wonderful.
A couple of years ago my brother got me a reissue of the Mattel version for my birthday. While some of the luster was long gone thanks to devices like the Gameboy Advance and the PSP, I still enjoyed this game way more than I should have. And to bring it all full circle, a little while back I was able to track down Galoob’s Electric Football on ebay. For only $20 it was sent to me in the original box (minus the instructions). And you know what? I couldn’t figure the fucking thing out. Nice game, Galoob. And what kind of name is Galoob?