By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Oar Folk was like a chop shop for malleable introverts in the market for a new identity. I easily befriended the beautiful geeks that listened to the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, but felt inferior to them for my lack of peacock feathers or other identifying colors. It was at Oar Folk that I met living role models (Peter Jesperson, Mark Trehus, Terry Katzman, Dave Ayers) that would show me the way to my greater, projected self. It was like a Method acting studio for blue-collar music lovers. I saw the way I had to go: I grew my hair out on top just a bit, like the Alvin Brothers, and bent it back. Mark started calling me "the Elvis kid."
New records were usually out of reach for my budget. I found an imported reissue of one of Little Richard's first albums, which I touched gently with great avarice, but could never afford. When I saved up enough money to buy a German reissue of the soundtrack to Elvis Presley's King Creole at Oar Folk, Mark Trehus rang it up. He had a black T-shirt and jeans, shaggy hair, and teeth as crooked as mine. He nodded amiably when I walked up, but after looking at the record, he looked up quickly and grinned with approval. "Elvis, huh?" he said. He was still grinning, but now with closed mouth, nodding with his chin stuck out. "I have this, too," he said. I realized later that he sells very effectively by affirming your taste. Conversely, I never heard him disparage somebody's tastes, even behind their backs.
In 1984, I was 13 and got my first job as the paper shredder at Summit Bank in Richfield. Every week, I grabbed the newest City Pages at the end of my shift and sat in the lobby of the bank to read it. (I literally haven't missed a week since.) There were two records that year that made me swoon just from reading the swooning of others: the Replacements' Let It Be and Los Lobos' How Will the Wolf Survive?. With paper-shredding money, I bought both. I also became aware that Peter Jesperson was splitting his time between Oar Folk and the Replacements, and they used to practice in the basement (where I later discovered the parking-lot car show of the record world: the collectable record store. Everything was eyed and coveted like a pot of gold, but nothing was affordable). Now, this place where I went to show off a newly forged identity was a mystical gateway to the almost-touchable older-sibling bands of the area: the Cows (I think Mark flattered me into buying their album on Treehouse), Soul Asylum, Run Westy Run, Hüsker Dü, and others.
Only a year later, the place burned, which wasn't the pat end of a golden era or a vision of beautiful dreams in smoke. (Treehouse is every inch the living reincarnation.) It was, however, the day that I realized how much Oar Folk meant to me. My dad took me to the Oar Folk fire sale, held at a warehouse space somewhere. Records that had expanded, melted, contracted, and been squished by liquefying shrink-wrap were for sale and lined up on the cement floor. I found a copy of the Little Richard LP that I had held a dozen times before. It was scorched and water-damaged, which really hurt to see. The only good thing was that I could finally afford it. I still have it now.
I’m Loving It! Loving It!
"One of these days, Alice...POW! right in the kisser!" Dating back to the days when a lowly New York City bus driver threatened domestic violence to the howls of a studio audience, the catchphrase has been a key part of a sitcom's success. Remember the Skipper, cutting homoerotic tension by beating his first mate with his hat to the strains of "Gilligan!"? Why were we ever enamored of a mechanically inclined high school dropout with a leather fetish purring, "Aaaaay!" to attract the fairer sex? Sitcoms, it seems, have long taken their cue from advertising, mining thousands of viewers every week with a simple catchphrase.
Great acting? Fine. Innovative writing? Good. A popular lead-in? Very helpful. Tossing out "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis!?!" every week, same time, same channel? Priceless.
In 1984, advertising executed this tactic to perfection in the form of three geriatric women complaining about the diminutive burgers found at most fast-food operations. The commercial was for Wendy's, a smallish burger chain whose previous claim to fame had been introducing the first modern-day drive-through window to Columbus, Ohio, in 1970. The catchphrase? "Where's the beef?"
Yeah, Bill Cosby injected new life into the sitcom (and NBC) in 1984 with The Cosby Show (which was successful without catchphrases, by the way). But the biggest TV sensation that year was Clara Peller, an 84-year-old former manicurist hired by Wendy's to utter "Where's the beef?" to promote their larger, square-shaped hamburgers. Back in a time when a sexual subtext wasn't added to absolutely everything, "Where's the beef?" became a white-hot cultural touchstone, popping up in magazine headlines, on coffee mugs and T-shirts, even underwear (okay, there's the sexual subtext, I guess). Walter Mondale wielded the words against rival Gary Hart. Hey, why