Young ‘n Free

Young ‘n Free was a line of bodycare products aimed at teenaged girls who were “just learning to be pretty.” I didn’t know being pretty was something you learned, but whatevs. Young ‘n Free promised to take girls from tomboy to teenaged with their line of hair care products, deodorant, bubble bath, and cologne. The ad above, from 1970, shows a tween-aged girl trying on a sophisticated party dress over her tomboyish jeans and moccasins. Our little girl is growing up so fast! But take a closer look. Is this the girl who invented the “dress over jeans” look that girls today are sporting?

And check out the psychedelic product packaging! The pretty pink, green and blue bottles with white flowers were sure to grab the attention of the average teenaged girl. I miss skincare and makeup lines that are designed to be cute enough to appeal to young girls, such as Love’s Baby Soft or Tinkerbell. They made being a kid, or more specifically, a girl kid, more fun. Girls of today are more sophisticated than girls in the Seventies. Born and raised during the age of technology, influenced by cable television and the Internet, they might allow their attention to be diverted from their text messaging just long enough to scoff at a bar of pink soap or bottles with flowers on them. Then again, Sephora just came out with a Hello Kitty line of makeup, so perhaps girls of today aren’t that different after all.

And in case you’re wondering, I purchased several items of the Helly Kitty makeup from Sephora, allowing me to relive that childhood pleasure of buying cute, gender-specific personal care products.


Music Monday: Paul McCartney and Wings

“Maybe I’m Amazed” appeared on the 1970 album “McCartney.” It was Paul McCartney’s first solo album, released as the Beatles were breaking up. But “Maybe I’m Amazed” wasn’t released as a single, at least not the studio version. In 1976, Paul McCartney and Wings released a live version of the song as a single. It was recorded during Wing’s 1976 tour of America and appeared on the “Wings Over America” album. I love the live version of this song because of the part after the lines “Baby I’m a man, and maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me, baby won’t you help me to understand,” where he sings “oooh-oooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-waaaaaah.” McCartney didn’t sing it in the original 1970 studio recording. Paul McCartney wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed” for his wife Linda, whom he credited with helping him get through a difficult time during the Beatles’ breakup. Years after her death it’s still a touching tribute to the woman who really was the love of his life.

Lip Smackers

Bonne Bell sure had a goldmine on their hands in the Seventies with Lip Smackers. Every girl I knew in junior high had at least one. My friends and I had several. These were the days before everyone and their mother were marketing lip balms, so the only choices were Lip Smackers and ChapStik. So naturally Lip Smackers were a huge hit with young girls. In those days Lip Smackers used to come in giant sizes as well as the regular size of lip balm tubes. There’s even an episode of Rhoda where Rhoda and her family are trapped somewhere, I think it was a cabin, without food. Rhoda pulls out her giant Strawberry Lip Smacker and tells everyone not to worry.

For a while in the Nineties, Lip Smackers had lost the “je ne sais quois” that had made them so much fun. Most of the branded food or soda flavors, like Dr. Pepper and Good ‘n Plenty, disappeared. The flavors that remained were the usual fruit flavors, which were kind of boring. But today it looks as though Bonne Bell is trying to restore Lip Smackers to their former glory in a market glutted with lip balms. I noticed some of the soda flavors like Dr. Pepper and 7 Up are back, although I still miss Bubblegum and Birthday Cake. The larger size has even returned, at least with the Dr. Pepper flavor, although it doesn’t look as big as I remember it, which means either it’s smaller than it used to be, or I’m bigger than I used to be.

Music Monday: Starland Vocal Band

The Starland Vocal Band were like the ABBA of America, being comprised of two married couples. This song was a huge hit for them in 1976. I remember the constant airplay this song received. But being ten years old, the real meaning of the song was completely lost on me.

Watching this video in the present day, I can’t help but think that those are some ugly shirts, tight trousers, and a bad afro on one guy. And what’s with the extreme close-up on the guy with the afro’s face? On the heels of this hit single, the Starland Vocal Band were given a six-week variety show. I watched it, but I don’t remember it being for six weeks. I remember it going off on bizzare or surreal tangents. In particular, I remember a scene where one of the female members of the band is running around like she’s searching for something. Maybe that’s why I only watched it once. Does anyone else remember their television show?

The Avon Lady

Back in the Seventies, the Avon Lady was as much a neighborhood institution as the fire department or the Fourth of July picnic. In my neighborhood, it was Mrs. Peerless. I can still picture her today. I can recall the excitement I felt when she came to the door because she had two things I really wanted: the white paper bag containing my mother’s order from her previous visit, and the new Avon catalogue. Whenever my mom placed an order, she’d let my sister and I look at the catalogue and pick something out. Avon made fun, unique items that they don’t make today, like their famous figural perfume bottles, and plastic figural brooches that contained solid perfume. I would always get a solid perfume brooch in my stocking at Christmas, and often I’d find under the tree a wrapped box containing a jar of creme perfume shaped like a snowman, or a bottle of liquid perfume in the shape of a girl, her top half serving as the cap, while her skirt contained the perfume.

Sweet Honesty ad, 1975. Is that Pam Dawber of "Mork and Mindy" fame?

My two favorite Avon fragrances were Sweet Honesty and Pink and Pretty. Pink and Pretty has long since been discontinued, though Avon still makes Sweet Honesty. But the figural perfume bottles that made getting something from the Avon Lady so special are gone. I guess tweens and teens are more sophisticated these days, or more interested in celebrity-endorsed products like Hannah Montanah perfume. Today the figural perfume bottles are highly collectible, even if they’re empty. I recently purchased on eBay a bottle of Zany (1979), which I loved in junior high but which was discontinued after only two years or so. The bottle is shaped like a Christmas tree, so in a way I can still feel like I’m getting something special from Avon for Christmas.

Music Monday: Gerry Rafferty

When I heard the news in January that Gerry Rafferty passed away, I was immediately reminded of 1978 and “Baker Street.” As a child who listened mostly to Beatle records, “Baker Street” was one of the contemporary songs that inspired me to delve more fully into the music of the present. When the song came on over the radio, I held up my portable Radio Shack cassette tape recorder and taped it so I could listen to it over and over again. In particular, “Baker Street” reminds me of the summer of 1978 (it went to #2 on the Billboard Charts on August 24). It conjures up memories of riding my bike to friends’ houses, attending summer day camp, and hanging out at the bay near my house, where the lifeguard would play his transistor radio. Rafferty had many other great songs that I also loved, including “Right Down the Line” and “Stuck in the Middle with You,” but “Baker Street” reminds me the most of a particular time and place that were very special to me. Rest in peace, Gerry.

Smokes for Women

In 1968, Phillip Morris USA introduced the Virginia Slims brand of cigarettes. In 1971, the Ligget Group introduced Eve cigarettes. Both were marketed specifically to women during the nascent years of the Women’s Liberation movement.

In the Seventies, not only was it acceptable to smoke, it was downright cool. Smoking evoked sophistication and glamour, and cigarette companies used that excuse to target the female demographic. Both Eve and Virginia Slims cigarettes were longer and slimmer than traditional cigarettes, to appeal more to women. Advertising campaigns were also geared towards women. Ads for Virginia Slims showed black and white photographs depicting humorous scenarios of 19th century women, frumpy and burdened with housework, sneaking a cigarette and, upon being discovered by their men, getting the comeuppance they supposedly deserved. These fictional scenarios were contrasted with a color photograph of the liberated woman, glamourous and sophisticated in designer clothing, freely enjoying a cigarette accompanied by the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby.” From a marketing perspective it was gold, but a report by the Surgeon General of the United States witnessed a correlation between the increase of smoking among teenaged girls and sales of these cigarettes marketed to women. Ads for both Virginia Slims and Eve were commonplace in women’s magazines of the time, including my mother’s copies of Better Homes and Gardens that I frequently perused for images to cut out for elementary school projects.

Virginia Slims and Eve cigarettes are still produced today, but you never hear about them anymore. The advertising campaigns are practically non-existent, overshadowed by the backlash against tobacco companies and the health issues caused by cigarettes. In an age where women are CEOs of businesses and hold office in national government, women of today don’t need to be pandered to in an effort to sell something that isn’t good for them anyway.