2010 UPDATE: Admittedly, this review meant much more to the world back when every old thing on the planet couldn't instantly be found on YouTube. On the other hand, I doubt you'll find such a thorough review of a 25 year old parade anywhere else. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades mean a lot to me, and since I know I'm not alone, this old and ugly review might mean something to you, too. Enjoy.
Okay, are you ready? Are you sure you're ready? It took months of hunting and loads of trouble, but finally, I was able to acquire virtually every Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1984 and on. The idea sprung in my head when I was trying to think of something to do between X-E's Halloween and Christmas seasons, and when it hit, I couldn't imagine how I didn't review these before. The parades are by far the best thing about Thanksgiving, and now that I've seen 'em all again, I can honestly say that there exists no better time capsule than what's on these videos. Decorating my home with Proflowers Thanksgiving centerpieces and watching these old parades put me in the holiday spirit. If you're into nostalgia, if you're into wacky shit, if you're into the holidays, if you're into pop culture -- believe me, this is going to be your favorite article on the site, bar none, by far.
Now, you might be wondering what could be so great about these Macy's Parades of old. After all, in more recent years, the parades have been more of a showcase for Broadway acts than anything else. That's great if you're into Broadway, but if you're not, how much fun could possibly be had just from seeing a few cartoony balloons floating over New York City? Let me explain something -- the parades of yesteryear were absolutely nothing like the ones we've seen in recent times. Instead, they're an absolute cavalcade of crap, showcasing virtually everything that made being a kid so wonderful. The iconic balloons were plentiful, but that's only a small part of it. Floats starring cartoon characters, TV personalities forced to sit atop large seahorses while lip-synching terrible holiday songs, Joey Lawrence being magically teleported by a clown onto Santa's sleigh -- you won't believe what you're going to see. I'm positive you're going to really enjoy this one, and what's the best part? This is only the first of several parade reviews to come. What you're going to see here in the 1984 review is amazing, but trust me, it can't hold a candle to the unbridled madness of the '86 or '89 parade. This is going to be one Hell of a month, so I hope you enjoy the ride.
Oh, did I mention that this thirteen-page review is littered with dozens of video clips? Yep. The videos are extremely rare. Even as someone experienced in tracking down obscure shit, it took me a long time to get a hold of 'em. Casual fans don't stand a chance, so I'm throwing caution to the wind and really killing my bandwidth with over 100 megabytes worth of clips displaying the parade's highlights. And, if that's not enough for you, we'll end off with two pages of commercial reviews and downloads featuring the best ad spots that aired during the parade. I hope you've got the next hour or so free, because I promise, you're not going to want to leave that damn chair.
All right, we're ready to go! You'll surely be intrigued with the stuff featured in this thirteen page review, though I'm not so sure if it'll be in a good way. A lot of the events that transpired during Macy's 1984 parade border finely on unintentional comedy, while other skits were so enormously offbeat that I'm going to recommend that you avoid taking sips of coffee while looking at 'em. I have been doing this gig for almost four years now, and I have never seen anything like this. How's that for a setup? Let's roll...
There's a link at the bottom of every page to continue to the next part, and to the right you'll see a "quick links" bar if you feel like skipping around. To get the full effect, read it in order. If you just can't wait, here's a menu detailing what's on each of the pages. Boldface denotes an accompanying video clip...
Page 1: You're on it, folks. Introduction, a look at the hosts, and the Turkey Float.
Page 2: Gallery featuring every balloon in the parade, with video clips of Garfield and more.
Page 3: Care Bears Float, Strawberry Shortcake Float.
Page 4: The incredible Joey Lawrence/evil clown dream sequence.
Page 5: Various bands, plus the Comics on Parade float.
Page 6: John Ratzenberger's live performance, Punky Brewster, and Rainbow Brite.
Page 7: Tim Conway joins The Cabbage Patch Kids, Disney, Fraggle Rock.
Page 8: Menudo sings and dances, Florence Henderson chats with Mary Lou Retton.
Page 9:The cast of Hill Street Blues teams up with The Shirt Tales, Mighty Mouse, Betty Boop.
Page 10: Scooby Doo's unbelievable birthday float, Rose Petal Palace, and more.
Page 11: Santa Claus Arrives!
Page 12: A look back at the commercial spots that aired during the parade, with video downloads.
Page 13: More commercial downloads, and some concluding words.
Enjoy the show!
Your host for this event: Pat Sajak. How about that? If you're thinking that Pat seems a little too subdued on "Wheel of Fortune" to pull off something like this, you've got a point. He is pretty lifeless at times, looking straight through the camera to the imaginary Thanksgiving dinner waiting at home. Still, this was Pat Sajak twenty years younger, so he's got a little more pep in his step than we're used to. Pat's job isn't easy, for a number of reasons:
1) He's faced with the challenge of seeming interested in things like "Care Bears" and Kermit the Frog. Not just "passingly interested," mind you -- he's got to treat the parade events like Christ's second coming, and he's got to do it every five minutes for three hours straight.
2) His list of interviewees certainly wouldn't have had Barbara Walters salivating. Pat either has to interview high school band members who are too excited about being on television to remember how to speak in anything but assorted voodoo tongues, or alternatively, television celebrities and radio stars who just finished their gig and have little interest in hanging around the cold, crowded sheets for a Pat Sajak Chat.
3) He's got an annoying co-host who constantly uses the Macy's Parade as an avenue to prove that she's fifty time more entertaining than big balloons, Santa Claus, and Pat Sajak.
Yes, a co-host...
Stepfanie Kramer, best known for her work as Sgt. Dee Dee McCall on "Hunter." The show debuted in 1984, so Stepfanie's really laying the "I AM WORTH BEING YOUR STAR" shtick on thick. To be honest, I've seen these parades a few times now and she's around for more than one of 'em, and yeah, she does kinda grow on your after a while. She's no Katie Couric, but at least she looks pretty happy to be there. Throughout watching these videos, the most annoying thing to see was a celeb making an obviously unwanted appearance, waving to the crowd in the same way you would to an across-the-street mailman who likes having extended conversation with everyone on his route. Stepfanie had the incredible ability to act oblivious even when standing directly in front of who was being interviewed, but once you get past her hamming, she's okay.
Plus, she sings...
And I gotta say, she did a pretty good job with the lip-synching. Every song number in the parade is done in the same way, and very few of the performers had any idea how to look like they were actually singing. There's several instances of forgotten lines (while the song still plays, mind you), and in this review, you'll see what's easily the most uninspired lip-synching ever put to film. When you find out who I'm talking about, that fact is made ten thousand times more entertaining.
Oh boy...wait till you see who I'm talking about. We're just a few pages away...
Bryant Gumbel was another host; actually, he seemed to be the main host for the second half of the parade. I guess the suits up at NBC put the order out to yank Pat, which sorta makes sense since he progressively turned more and more into human soup by the 90-minute mark.
Bryant's work was interesting, to say the least. The hosts will often make little side comments to pass the time between acts, and in Bryant's case, the only things he's able to dig up for conversation is coffee, or how much he has to piss from drinking so much coffee. No, I'm not kidding. Later in the parade, he's chatting with Mary Lou Retton. Now that's a sight in of itself, but it gets better once Gumbel passes her the microphone so he can take a piss break. He doesn't say it so crudely, but he definitely implies it, many times, in a variety of ways. I'm not going for libel here, but I bet those "bathroom breaks" involved a lot of rolled-up dollar bill straws.
Nah, Bryant actually had his family with him, so it's understandable that he would try to make some time out for his son. And to piss. A lot. And talk about it. A lot. Besides, have you ever seen Mary Lou Retton with a live mic, unmoderated? WATCH OUT!
I forgot her name, but that's the woman who kicks off most of the Macy's Parades. I know her last name wasn't "Macy," but it totally should've been. Strangely enough, she's by far the best talker out of everyone I've seen on these videos, including future host Willard Scott. Ms. Macy is capable of making every parade skit seem important and glorious, even if we're collectively thinking that what we just saw is a justifiable reason to blow up every Macy's store before moving onto stores that aren't Macy's because we're too damn addicted to blowing up buildings to ever stop. Thanks for saving us, Ms. Macy. And thanks for the parades!
After the hosts introduce themselves and discuss coffee and pissing, it's time to see some of the attractions. There was tons of shit -- way more than I've seen in any Macy's Parade from the past five years or so. Much of the stuff has stuck with the program through the years, and though I can't say for sure, that freaky turkey car shown above still makes the rotation today. Of course, I doubt it's ever seemed so terrific as it did in 1984, with Dionne Fucking Warwick riding on top.
In the video clip below, see if you notice this... As the turkey/Warwick anomaly waddles down Broadway, Bryant Gumbel begins commentating on what we don't believe we're seeing. When he says "Dionne Warwick," notice how the turkey literally shakes his head in disbelief, apparently shocked and insulted that, out of all the appearing celebrities, he's been saddled with Dionne Warwick? I swear to God, the turkey practically sighs at the sound of her name, stopping only to look more cheerful for all the kids who came to see him, and then getting sad again because none of the kids actually came to see him. By the time the turkey realizes that this holiday they're celebrating is all about eating him, we're gonna have one depressed Thanksgiving float on our hands.
Click to watch Dionne Warwick ride the goddamned turkey. (1.2 MB)
The super-sized Ben Franklin bobblehead should be familiar -- he and George Washington have been making the parade appearances for a long time. I assume the children in the crowd could be pressed to seem more interested in the poor Ben statue if their parents just tell 'em that he's the guy who voices Miss Piggy.
Course, neither Ben Franklin or Miss Piggy are the reason children flock to these parades. Floats and Stepfanie Kramer aside, there was only one thing we really wanted to see. Balloons. Check 'em out on paaaage twwwooooo....