Considering the rant-ish piece I wrote last week about the exclusivity of the upcoming Mondo Monster Squad “Rock Until You Drop” vinyl singles, I thought it would behoove me to switch gears from focusing on that sort of manufactured collectible to a much more organic and meaningful piece that I was privileged to put in my personal collection recently.
A couple of months ago I was surprised with one of the weirdest yet coolest gifts that I’ve ever received, and it touched me so deeply that I actually shed a few tears when I realized what I was holding in my hand. I had been contacted by a really kind former crew member (Jim Clarke) who had worked on one of my favorite childhood television shows, You Can’t Do That on Television. Apparently he’d read and dug a couple of the pieces I’d written that surrounded the show here at Branded (a review of the You Can’t Do That On Film documentary and the Slimed book), and had mentioned that he wanted to send me a piece of ephemera for my collection. A couple of weeks went by and with a ton of crazy things going on behind the scenes of Branded I let this exchange slip from my mind a bit until I received a small envelope in the mail with a Canadian postal return address.
As I carefully opened the package I was trying to guess at what the contents might be. Mr. Clarke was purposely vague as to what he was sending, and I’m glad he was. The packaged contained a folded letter on official CTV letterhead and a swatch of blue and green flowered wallpaper. For a second I was confused, and then it dawned on me that I was holding a very small and very awesome piece of the You Can’t Do That On Television filming set! This was a piece of wallpaper that adorned the walls of the main family living room set where Les Lye’s Lance Prevert and Abby Hagyard’s Mom character cracked wise with dozens of kid actors during the 80s and early 90s. I mean, holy crap, if this piece of wallpaper could talk.
You Can’t Do That On Television was such a huge show for me. Not only was it the cornerstone show of a network that I watched all the time as a kid and teen, but it was my first real introduction to sketch comedy. YCDTOTV was my gateway to shows like Monty Python, SCTV, Kids in the Hall and the Upright Citizens Brigade. That style of comedy is what kept me sane as an overweight, geeky teenager, and I can’t even count how often my mind would drift back to the dozen characters Les Lye played when I was struggling to fit in at school and with friends. Those characters were the backbone of my inner monologue comedy, and they shaped me as a person to an extent. So to have a piece, even something as small and insignificant as a piece of wallpaper from that show is almost like having a magic talisman.
Never in a million years did I ever think I’d own and cherish a small patch of wallpaper, a piece of wallpaper that I’m totally going to frame and hang proudly in Branded HQ. This just reinforces the idea that maybe, instead of dropping a ton of cash on eBay for nostalgic toys or cool new manufactured collectibles, maybe it’s better to put out as much positive energy out into the void as possible and then let the universe return the favor. I’m not a super spiritual individual, but I do know that the things that I cherish the most, collection-wise, is stuff that has come my way through connections I’ve made because of writing and podcasting here at Branded in the 80s. I’ve had the honor to meet (online and in person) some amazingly friendly and talented people that I never would have met had I not started this project, and the gifts, trades and purchases are the things that truly make my heart swell.
I can’t thank Jim Clarke enough for reaching out like he did and helping to keep the flame of You Can’t Do That On Television alive. Clarke is one of the few people who was forward thinking enough to save some of the sets and props from the show. In addition to saving some of the wallpaper from the living room set, Clarke also owns the wooden post from the firing squad set, the microphone Les Lye’s announcer character used, and the freaking lockers from the mid-show joke segments! How cool is that? You can check out an interview with him here.
What’s the weirdest/coolest piece in your nostalgia collection?