On the NEW episode of the Purple Stuff Podcast, Matt and I talk about HOME ALONE! It’s one of our favorite holiday movies from our youth and we each bring a mixed bag of stuff to pore over. It’s a celebration of the film so if you love it as much as we do, this is for you!
Does it get any geekier than parodying an early ’70s soft rock hit from the band Chicago to use as a title for a blog post? I think not. The 4th may not have been the specific date we visited Six Flags Great Adventure for their Holiday in the Park extravaganza, but I kept singing “Holiday in the Park” as if it were a real Chicago song that night. At first, the thought of going to an amusement park in December sounds preposterous, falling short of maybe only the Polar Bear Plunge, where clearly crazy people VOLUNTARILY choose to dive into the ocean, which happens to be filled with ridiculously freezing cold water. Fortunately, on the night that we headed to Jackson, NJ, it was unseasonably mild…but raining. On our drive down, the weather was indeed “frightful,” and I told Miss Sexy Armpit that we were nuts for even thinking of riding roller coasters in the rain. Wait, hold up, note to self, remember to write a mid-80s style, smooth R&B song called “Riding Roller Coasters in the Rain” because that title f*cking rocks. Anyway, we justified it as such: “But they have Christmas lights!!” so we wooden-soldiered on.
To my knowledge, Great Adventure has never done a Holiday celebration, and if they did, it was never anywhere close to this extreme scale. It all felt like Six Flags on Candy Cane flavored Crack. It was like Great Adventure submitted themselves to compete in The Great Christmas Light Flight. Once we arrived and heard the Christmas tunes echoing into the parking lot and saw the soft glow of the festive lights pouring into the misty night sky, it was obvious this was the Christmas version of Fright Fest and we were in for a real treat.
Upon entering the park we were immediately transported into the North Pole with snow machines blowing snow everywhere! Talk about eye candy, every inch of the entire park was decked out in Christmas decor. The attention to detail was incredible, it felt like every tree had lights and every window had animatronic elves preparing gifts. It was a sight to behold. Miss Sexy Armpit even said she liked it better than Fright Fest. For me, as a G.A regular since 1985, it felt much different than anything they’ve done before. The park transformed into its own little Christmas island.
As we made our way through the park, I kept thinking how my Christmas spirit this year wasn’t anywhere near the levels it had been in the past. I couldn’t pinpoint why that’s been the case, but experiencing Holiday in the Park was like a shot of Christmas spirit right in the heart. With the Christmas tunes playing and visitor’s of the park in a more laid back, jolly mood, it was just what I needed. It actually felt like more of an escape from reality than any other time I’ve been to Great Adventure.
The rain and drizzle was intermittent, but it was actually exactly what we needed to be able to hop on all the rides with almost no lines. Turns out that most people don’t like to go on rides in the rain. What a shocker. The longest we waited to get on a ride was about 10 or 15 minutes, which was great. Miss Sexy Armpit and I hit a couple of our favorites including, Nitro and Superman. We even took a ride on the indoor Skull Mountain, which is tame compared to the other insane thrill rides they have there, but it’s still old school, simple fun. The closest comparison to it would be Space Mountain in Disney, although it’s always been a few steps behind. Looking back since it opened, the ride had the potential to be amazing. Consider this: it could’ve been a Goonies ride! Even if they couldn’t secure rights to the Goonies, they could’ve easily picked a licensed property that would’ve worked, or even created their own original generic pirate or ghost theme. The story and the characters associated with the rides always enhance the ride experience for me. They should’ve also incorporated spooky music into the ride as well. But, here’s why I won’t complain this time around: For Holiday in the Park, Skull Mountain transformed into Poinsettia Peak and it was completely draped in red Christmas lights. The whole rocky facade of the ride was bathed in red, like Tootsie’s dress, so all was forgiven. Good old Skull Mountain has never looked this glamorous….or RED!
After the rides I had my imperative browsing session in the Justice League store. This place is a MUST every time I go to Great Adventure. With wall to wall DC Super Hero stuff, it’s the closest thing I’ll get to the old WB store in the mall. I want to buy everything. Hint: check out the video above to see the cool, customized white Christmas tree adorned with all kinds of DC characters! I didn’t buy anything this time around, but I was sure tempted. I’m just glad this store is still open and as awesome as it ever was.
Aside from the obvious Christmas theme, there was an element to the whole experience that made it stand out. The fact that we were riding coasters in December, the temp was in the mid ’50s, and the foggy night sky had an ominous, purple hue, made those high points on the coasters feel fifty times more awesome than usual. In addition to the coasters which are predominantly a warm weather pastime, we also partook in G.A’s Boardwalk games to briefly recapture that summer magic. For a minute I’d thought I hit the jackpot since that tricky milk can toss game with the softballs was chock full of Star Wars: Force Awakens stuff. Kylo Ren plush toys gave Miss Sexy Armpit a reason to blow copious amounts of money to try to win one for me. What a girl! She bought us both chances and we both failed miserably, but we had fun so that’s what matters, right? Come to think of it, maybe we would’ve nabbed Kylo Ren if we actually completed our Jedi training on Dagobah.
To ease the pain of our simultaneous double loss, there were holiday themed treats for sale everywhere. For example, Hot Chocolate with Snowman Peeps was served and sipped at several of the fire pit stations. Yes, you read that correctly, they had fire pits set up strategically by the food and snack kiosks which was a hit. People with mittens holding hot drinks were hanging out by fires as if they were at some super expensive ski lodge. Carollers sang holiday songs while flashy Christmas tree light shows burned green cones into my retinas. That was all good, but what’s a holiday celebration without the big man himself? That’s right, Santa Claus appears to hear all the kiddies tell him they want hover-boards, and so does Mrs. Claus with her special story time show. They covered all bases except Mrs. Claus’ late night lingerie striptease – that, for some reason, was not on the docket.
With trees wearing Candy Cane disguises, holiday photo-op stations erected (they affectionately nicknamed them Mistletoe Moments for all you lovers out there), and reindeer crooning Christmas songs, Six Flags did a bang up job creating a Winter Wonderland at Great Adventure. Trust me, experience Holiday in the Park if you can, but do it before it comes to an end on January 3rd! The key is to go at night once it gets dark to soak in the optimum amount of Christmas cheer. That, and the fact that “kids are scared of the dark” according to Marv from Home Alone.
For several years during my childhood, my mom would keep a medium sized artificial Christmas tree up year round. No, she didn’t leave the Christmas decorations on it the whole time, she would decorate it with whatever coincided with the season. Summertime usually had things like American flags and beach décor, and Halloween, of course, had pumpkins, ghosts, and witches, etc. As offbeat as this seemed to people who came over at the time, it was truly a conversation piece. Personally, I thought it was a lot of work because I would help her put the ornaments up. Although it didn’t last more than a few years, it was certainly a memorable way to celebrate holidays and the changing of seasons. Since we’re deep into the Halloween season, if you don’t really want an artificial Christmas tree taking up space in your living room just yet, you can create a Halloween Mood Table.
The pioneer of the Halloween Mood Table, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula, has been doing these for eons and so many of his readers follow suit each year to usher in their own personal Halloween celebrations (this year even Jorge Garcia, star of LOST, got in on the fun!) Surprisingly, up until now I only admired Matt’s Mood Table as well as photos of the tables that were sent in to him. I finally decided to get into the game with my own assemblage of spooky crap to create my own Halloween Mood Table!
There’s a few reasons why I never took part in the festivities.
Perhaps the most prominent reason why I never created a Halloween Mood table of my own was because I’ve always kept so much of my Halloween and Horror stuff displayed all year that I never had the motivation to dust it all off and relocate it to another spot. If you are drowning in knick-knacks like I am, you know what a pain this is! This year, it dawned on me that if all this stuff sits in the same spot all the time and collects dust, it’s making things stagnant! I figured, why not take a stab at finally making a Mood Table to infuse my surroundings with a shot of Halloween spirit?
First, my September and October months have always been packed with events and trips well before I ever had my first website, so this left little time and motivation to work on the mood table. Then when I started doing the Halloween Specials, that ate up much of my time in September and October as well. It dawned on me recently that if I have time to put up a Christmas tree, then why the hell can’t I make some time for a mood table? Since this year’s Halloween Special is now available for all to see, I finally had time to dedicate to making this monstrosity!
The minute I started conjuring up this mood table, I was immediately overcome by the exact feeling that Matt described that one should get after admiring what they designed. It’s true too, because the table wasn’t even complete and I felt a surge of Halloween spirit, instead of butterflies in my stomach, I’m pretty sure they were cheap rubber bats. The fact that I haven’t done this in the past is ludicrous.
Let’s take a closer look at what I slapped together fairly haphazardly.
The table itself is a black wrought iron accent table that has to date back to the late ’60s. It was a gift to my parents after they got married and it had plant on it. It’s simple, and I’ve always loved it. It was probably because it was always there in my house, whether it had a spider plant sitting on it or a few coffee mugs, an ash tray, and some random uncles bifocals. It’s heavy, black table and it’s pretty timeless. When we moved into a smaller place, I lobbied hard to keep the table, I even said I’d keep it in my small bedroom. So, with us it came. Then when I moved out into my own place, I brought it with me. There was no doubt that it was screaming to be the official Mood Table from now on. It was fate. It travelled all these years and through all the different homes and has finally found it’s place in this world holding random Halloween related junk. I hired a table whisperer and he said the table is so happy now, it may want to keep that crap on it all year long, but mostly because it knows I probably won’t move it off until late November.
I threw together a lot of stuff that I’ve procured recently myself or as gifts and have mentioned here on the blog along with some other items that I’ve had for a long time.
There’s an illuminated pumpkin, a few Reaction figures, the vampire Monster in My Pocket that I picked up at the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market, Halloween edition Toxic Waste candy, Halloween 3 Glow art from Bob Burke, atrocious Halloween art that I made with @DinosaurDracula and @FreddyInSpace, a mummy pooper, the Librarian Ghost from Ghostbusters, the Krispy Kreme GhostBusters pail, a couple of styrofoam headstones, Halloween Gak (thanks to Ipoisonthenachos) Frankenstein LED color changing candle, Jason goblet, a packet of Ghoul Aid, a skull, pumpkin candle, a wind up zombie, a Rockin’ Solar Buddy, Blair Witch Sticks and Stones VHS tape, Clarence, Prime Evil who was my costume inspiration last year, the Dino Drac 2014 Halloween countdown print, a Miller Lite Scary Pumpkin Coaster, Ghosts of Central New Jersey book, and one of the horns used to make Mike’s Jersey Devil getup in this year’s Halloween Special.
Wrapped up sloppily and helping to create the ambience underneath the table are orange and purple rope lights that I was about to take back because I didn’t think I needed them this season, but it dawned on me that this is the perfect way to put them to good use. After nearly impaling myself on their sharp plastic packaging, I wrapped them around the legs of the table and plugged them into a step-on light switch for easy access. Not sure if that’s the technical UL certified name for it, but step-on light switch works just fine for me.
To take this a step further, I wanted to connect my iPod speaker dock underneath the table as well, but there were no more outlets. It was best to avoid a Darren McGavin fuse moment in A Christmas Story. I’ll save that project for the weekend!
Making Christmas a success for the kids can get pretty stressful. Trying to buy gifts for every kid in the immediate and extended family and verifying that everyone was treated fairly is a huge pain in the ass and a lot of work. There’s traffic getting to the mall and Target, there’s crowds everywhere, there’s annoying people at your family gatherings, and sometimes, it’s just a lot to deal with. For this reason I’m doing a public service and posting this recipe for “Santa Gria” Sangria that I found on a bottle of Santa’s Little Helper Wine from the Valenzano Winery in Shamong, New Jersey.
The Valenzano Winery always puts out cool special edition wines, and to see one this Christmasy is tremendous. Santa’s Little Helper wine wears its holiday cheer smack dab on the front of the label which includes holly, a silver backdrop of snowflakes, and Santa kicking back with a Christmas cookie and his favorite drank. Yes drank. It was my choice and I’m owning it. I established that the label is holiday themed, but the contents are to an extent as well. It’s made with both cranberries and white cranberries, as well as blueberries and grapes. It’s probably really sweet and perfect as a base for Sangria or Santa Gria as shown in the recipe below from the back of the bottle.
Usually, a lot of imbibing goes on during the holidays. If you’re like me and you don’t have kids, having some cocktails is less about “needing one” and more for sheer amusement. Let’s be honest, Aunt Rhoda’s intense perfume is a lot easier to handle when you’re buzzed and Uncle Todd’s lame jokes become somewhat to even mildly funnier. Don’t want to give that rat bastard too much credit.
Parents have a huge responsibility on their shoulders to make Christmas special for their kids. Christmas can be amazing at any age, but this is a holiday engineered for the children. As much as we think it’s still ours because the naughty Mrs.Claus costumes come out of the closet and we drink spiked egg nog, it’s not for us. But it’s important to not get stressed out and enjoy the festivities, so mix yourself up a drink!
We raise our tipsy hands, which are presently holding moose mugs, to you, the hard working parents who bust their asses to give their kids the best Christmas possible. I know my parents did it each and every year and I am so very thankful for that. Ahhh! Let’s go find your sister!
The ‘Pearls pounded their hits out to the audience as if it was a good ol’ fashioned Scut Farcus beat down session. They didn’t chintz out one bit as they included all the tracks they’re known for including “Who’s Coming Back To Who,” “Static,” and their big one “New York City Is a Drug.” Toward the middle of “Sucker for a Sequel,” they tore into an awesome break down which featured Tommy Mokas literally shredding his guitar while going back and forth with Tommy London and special guest Brian Newman on trumpet.
After blasting through a speeding bullet of a set, the gang, also known as The Rivington Rebels, departed the stage. Nobody in the audience moved a muscle because they knew there was a gift in store. Personally, I was positive the band would perform a Christmas tune, but which one? Would it be the rocking “Run, Run, Rudolph,” or the often covered by rock bands “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)?” Ultimately, their selection was a true gift, especially for me!
Personality plus drummer Mr. Marty E. asked the crowd if they wanted to hear more. Judging by the shrieks and applause, obviously they did! The band returned to the stage. When amped up front man Tommy London began hinting at a Christmas song, my mind started running through all the possibilities. I hoped it wasn’t just a quick bar of “Frosty the Snowman,” as a joke.
I was enthralled when guitarist Sunny Climbs started into the opening notes of Springsteen’s CLASSIC version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” The Dirty Pearls made this song their own by adding their own rock edge while still remaining true to The Boss’ version. With little nods to the original, this was truly a phenomenal surprise gift for their fans! Of course, I loved it even more since Springsteen’s Christmas songs are legendary around these parts.
Many of you reading this can quote all the lines from this film, but the rest of you? Why you haven’t seen this film is beyond me.
The man responsible for a handful of my favorite films such as Superman, Superman II, The Goonies, The Omen, etc, Richard Donner, directed this modernization of Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol, and it deserves a rightful spot in your holiday celebrations. At first, its dark humor might surprise you, but if you are familiar with the tone of A Christmas Carol, it’s a borderline horror story. There’s ghosts and unsettling tension. Scrooged does you one better and also makes you want to do what the youngsters call “rotfl.”
According to Wikipedia, reviews on the film were mixed. Who cares? Don’t let that hinder you from this superb holiday enjoyment. It’s just soooo good. 4 o’s for effect. I mean FOUR EFFECT. And I meant it like OHHH, not simply just “O.” It is SOOOO GOOD.
Yes, it’s the same Scrooge story you’ve read and watched a million times, but it’s updated for a late ’80s audience. As TV Exec Frank Cross, Bill Murray will crack you up as he descends into eccentric paranoia. What makes this film even more special is that Murray’s superlative performance comes to life during Christmas time in New York City. With SNL and Ghostbusters, Murray is no stranger to NYC. And you know what place isn’t too far away, right? You got it! New Jersaaay!
Casting of the 3 ghosts in Scrooged was right on the money. Specifically, the Ghost of Christmas Past who was embodied by David Johansen. The N.Y Dolls rocker materialized in the form of a loud mouthed taxi driver. It doesn’t get more New York than that! Looking dirty and sleazy, he drives Cross right back to 1955 to take a look at past moments from his life.
What’s bothersome about that line is that we have drivers in this state from all over the country. I can be on a highway with New Yorkers, Floridians, Pennsylvanians, and folks from Connecticut amongst so many others. Regardless, I do enjoy the NJ reference and get a kick out of the stereotype.
The plot focuses on Cross’ mission to produce the schlockiest of Christmas Carol broadcasts to air on Christmas Eve – because it’s all about the RATINGS. Ratings are still important today, but who really cares about TV anymore? In the late ’70s and ’80s, TV networks and media groups were run like the world depended on them, and the world did. Even though we’ve mostly transitioned to the Internet for nearly everything, Scrooged retains a pertinent message.
Once Cross is reformed toward the end of the film, he completely shoots himself and his station in the foot by encouraging people to spend time with their families during Christmas rather than sit and watch TV.
I’m living proof of this. About a month ago I lost my remote control and I’ve watched exactly ONE show since then and I feel like I haven’t missed out on anything. It’s given me more time to be with friends and family. I don’t feel tied to cable. Screw you Comcast!
A Christmas Story will be on 24 hours in a few days, PLUS you own the DVD so, at the very least, you can do something different and make Scrooged a family event. Don’t blame me if you get a little misty-eyed toward the end! It’s all good. F*ck cable. F*ck satellite. Go play a game with your kids and give your Mrs. Claus a kiss. Merry Christmas!
I’m excited to announce my participation in SHIT MOVIE FEST’S 25 Days of SHITMAS 2013! Tom over at Shit Movie Fest asked if I’d like to be a part of the festivities this year and I was honored! Naturally, I couldn’t throw myself into the mix without discussing a film that screamed JERSEY. After seeing some of the DVD’s that Tom picked up to review himself, I noticed one that I’ve been meaning to write about literally for years here at The Sexy Armpit and that is 2005’s JUST FRIENDS. I coerced Tom into letting me take on Just Friends and he was happy to oblige! Thanks Tom! Click the link above to head over to Shit Movie Fest!
Everyone seems to have pop culture ornaments on their trees nowadays. It’s become a huge business too. Some of these limited edition Hallmark ornaments go for big bucks on eBay. If you have any of these cool ornaments you’ve probably noticed that they seem to have become heavier as well. Clearly the ornament makers aren’t abiding by the weight limit anymore. Many of them need to be attached to two branches which is complete idiocy if you ask me. Any ornament that either bends a branch after you hang it, or needs to have some intricately designed support system, can suck it. I have a bunch of these pop culture ornaments, but I also have my fair share of ornaments I hung onto from my childhood. Take this Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. They really ripped off generic Elf ornaments from the ’70s and early ’80s. Look at this Elf on my tree pictured above. He’s so damn old, but I keep him because it reminds me of Christmases from years ago. The Elf on the Shelf people need to admit that the overall look and design of their character is definitely reminiscent of these kitschy elves I grew up with.
6. HOLIDAY FATIGUES
When I was a kid basking in the toy section of Alexander’s in Menlo Park Mall with my Dad, I used to see all the Star Wars figures that I wanted and I wondered what the hell did “fatigues” mean? Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues. As a little Sexy Armpiteer, I had no clue what in the world it meant. Even sounding it out just made matters worse. FAT-IG-YOUS. Actually, to the 3 year old me, FAT-IG-YOUS translated to what we now know as WTF. Now that I’m older I realized that I have my own type of fatigues. In contrast to my regular getup, which is usually comprised of a t-shirt, sunglasses, jeans, hoodie, and a leather jacket of some type, as you can see above, I just modify the colors for the holidays. If I was a Star Wars figure, these would be my Holiday Fatigues. Add in some red or green and you too can have your own holiday fatigues.
A lot of people are wearing the ugly Christmas sweater gimmick, but I’ve just never been a fan of wearing sweaters. But you have to go with what you like, what you’re comfortable in, and what you look good in. Do you only like to wear Terry Cloth? Because anything red and green terry cloth will work. Keep in mind, it’s probably not a good idea to be taking fashion tips from a guy known in online circles as The Sexy Armpit. In my case, it’s a red t-shirt, red bandanna, and for some reason, a black jacket that I bought because I saw Jason Statham wear it in the first Expendables movie. HIGH FASHION! Then in addition to whatever ensemble you choose, why not throw in Santa hat or those fun headband with reindeer antlers? You might feel like an idiot, but who cares. Would I ever wear antlers? F*ck no. A Santa hat, YES. Unfortunately, I can never wear that specific Santa hat again since Sludgey has a habit of saturating all cloth material he comes in contact with in smelly green goo.
5. READING IS FUNDAMENTAL
Read some holiday themed comics. I’m a sucker for comics and superhero stories with a holiday theme. Off the top of my head I have a few holiday comics that I plan on reading this season including DC Universe, Archie, and Ghostbusters. I’m looking forward to relaxing on the couch in the glow of my gaudy oversized Christmas lights and reading some comics.
4. YOU WANT TO GET NUTS? LET’S GET NUTS!
Lots of people get nuts because the holidays make them that way. This is a stressful season, so people who are nuts should just calm down, decompress and have some…nuts. Lots of people put out bowls filled with all kinds of mixed nuts, but who needs mixed nuts when you are really only ever looking for that one very special kind of nut. Some people put out Andies Candies, others put out peppermint bark, others opt for assorted chocolates. Whatever. I’m about to change your life. Well, not your whole life, just your holiday nut preference.
Toasted Coconut Cashews by MMMine! I tasted these during Thanksgiving and WOW they are good. Their catchphrase should be “They’ll blow your MMMind!” If you like toasted coconut bits and cashews, this is an out of this world concoction for you. This takes the act of snacking on some nuts to a whole other level. If these nuts were an appetizer at a fancy restaurant they’d be the jumbo coconut crunchy shrimp. Affordable and satisfying. I say affordable because they’re available at Costco, but that still means they were probably $14. Although I have no grounds for saying that because they were a gift to me. Thanks to Miss Sexy Armpit’s mom for getting them for me!
3. BIGGEST F*CKING SMORE YOU’VE EVER SEEN
Russell Stover is at their usual shenanigans again. I’m sure this giant s’more in festive packaging is part of their seasonal offerings every year, but I don’t pay attention. I only noticed it at Kmart because it was f*cking HUGE. I would never intentionally buy something this big since it would take me 3 1/2 years to finish it. I ripped a sample off and it was certainly delicious, but I found the marshmallow to be overly sticky like no other marshmallow has ever been. It was to the point that I felt like I was Clark Griswold with sap all over my hands, or The Sexy Armpit with liquid cement all over my hands. Naturally it’s impossible to replicate an actual marshmallow that you just toasted over a fire in your friends backyard. It’s obviously not as authentic. If you’re a s’mores fanatic you’re obviously better off making them yourself, but if you err on the lazy side when it comes to food preparation, these are great and one package could probably feed a party of 49 people.
You’re going to need to wash down the smores and the nuts with some liquid refreshments. Considering Egg Nog is virtually all fat and cholesterol, why not just load up on sugar drinks? I recommend a swank Tiki Punch by the classiest of carbonated beverages, Shasta. If only I had red and green drink umbrellas we’d be all set. This stuff tastes like Fruit Punch soda with a kick of Pineapple soda. Most fruit punches and fruit punch sodas have a hint of pineapple already, but this seems to taste like it has a little bit extra, which is where they get off referring to it as “Tiki.” Will this enhance your Christmas celebration at all? Absolutely not. Unless your wasted. Hell, I don’t even drink soda on a regular basis, but this stuff is reddish-pink so it’s perfectly acceptable for a holiday party. What I failed to mention is that a 4-pack of these only cost a buck at Big Lots.
Tequila? Red Licorice Vodka? Everclear? Pour whatever you like, but preferably into these kickass ceramic Toxic Wasted shot glasses buy Big Mouth Toys. I picked them up on Amazon for under $10 bucks. These fit right in at Sexy Armpit Headquarters since it matches our vibe. Matter of fact, I like them so much that I was fine getting stuck with the yellow one the last time I did a shot with Dinosaur Dracula. FULLER GO EASY ON THE PEPPERMINT SCHNAPPS!
Just like during Halloween season, music is a crucial aspect of creating the proper atmosphere of my holiday season. Currently, I’m in the middle of a soft launch of my diverse and hefty holiday playlist. This week, I’ve been sprinkling in a Christmas songs into my regular playlists, with a full-on Christmas music bonanza most likely hitting the speakers tomorrow.
From mid-November until the very last bit of Christmas Day, I only listen to Christmas tunes. Yeah, I take it seriously. There’s never been a Christmas when it was any different either. My father started this tradition in our family once cassettes became standard in the household. He would record all of our favorite Christmas songs off the radio, essentially making mix tapes for us to listen to the entire holiday season. We had about 5 or 6 tapes chock full of awesome Christmas music. Once we got a more advanced stereo system we even started to “dub” (No, not dub-step kids. At one time dubbing referred to copying or recording) Christmas record albums (younger kids only semi-know what these are) onto cassettes.
My parents had an extensive record collection. A decent chunk of the collection included some pretty awesome Christmas records that provided me with an endless amount of musical discovery when I was really young. I remember going through stacks of records and finding a bunch of different Christmas compilations that my parents got through gas station promotions. For some reason gas stations used to give you full kitchen silverware sets, glassware, and LPs. It was a peculiar, yet f*cking amazing time in America. I guess gas was a tough sell back then? Now all you need to do is announce that there’s a gas shortage and there’s a line of cars 3 1/2 miles long down Route 9.
The moment November arrived, I hounded my parents incessantly for permission to bring the Christmas decorations inside. We used to keep all of it in the garage and being that we were one of the only families I knew who actually parked their car in the garage, it was sort of a bitch to get all the huge heavy boxes down off the shelves when there was a big brown Buick in the way. Plus, it always seemed to be very cold, not like nowadays when we’ve been getting random stretches of 65 degree weather. So, my parents took all that into consideration and they would attempt to dissuade me every time, but Christmas overcame me. My Christmas force power was too strong even for my parents who were firm when they wanted to be. As soon as they relented and gave me the exasperated “Go ahead…bring it in,” approval, I would instantly start playing Christmas records.
Christmastime was like a state of mind and a drug to me, and it still is. The excitement of the season overshadowed everything else. It was the fact that everything seemed different and better during the holidays. The music, the food, the decorations, the TV specials, the family get togethers, it was all a total blast to me. What was old became new again although this magical feeling would never work without the music.
On the wish list front, I would craft a very detailed list for Santa each year. Months prior to December, I’d cull from the jumbo catalogs that arrived in the mailbox from stores like JC Penny and Sears and very neatly copied down item numbers and descriptions – wouldn’t want those elves f*cking everything up now would we? Frankly, none of that really mattered, I just revelled in being caught up in the season. It was the one time a year when everyone seemed to honestly set aside their differences (for the most part), have a few drinks, and eat some Christmas cookies. I had so many great Christmas seasons with my family and friends and they were all set to music.
Back to those mix tapes. They lasted for years and we played them over and over again. We also started collecting the Very Special Christmas compilations when they started showing up in stores. To have those official releases were great, but Dad’s mix tapes were LEGENDARY. Songs would abruptly cut off and then pick up in the middle of another song, and then other songs would end and he’d forget to stop the tape, so for 8 years we were able to recite Casey Kasem’s post-song banter. Then there’d be songs toward the end of the tapes that were regular top 40 music so we’d go from “Last Christmas” into “Just a Gigolo” by David Lee Roth. It was quirky for sure, but we waited all year to listen to those tapes.
My Christmas music tradition was enhanced when I got my first iPod back in 2004. Christmas playlists were never the same. Gone were the mix tapes that my father made us, but they are fully reflected fully in my playlist. Essentially, this playlist is just a modern version of those old tapes.
Presently, just to give you an idea of what kind of Christmas freak I am, there’s 433 tracks in my Holiday Playlist, some are IDs with Christmas greetings from people like Kevin Smith, Alice Cooper, and others, and a few are sound clips from Christmas movies, but the majority of the tracks are songs. Keep in mind that I’m not one to rip full albums – especially Christmas albums because there’s usually a lot of filler. To clue you in, the only full album I have on my christmas playlist is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You.
You can’t imagine the difficulty I had choosing these songs. What it came down to was, if I had to delete 400 some-odd songs, what are the 30 that I’d keep in the playlist? I tried to narrow it down to 10 and 20, but there were too many that I absolutely couldn’t part with. Once you get down to around the top 15 there’s a more solid rhyme and reason behind why I chose the songs in that particular order. Some are comedic, some are sentimental favorites, others are rockers, but all of them are nostalgic to me and bring to mind memories of the Christmas season. Not everyone is as anal about Christmas music as I am, so, below, I’ve shared my favorite songs with you and also my thoughts on each one.
30. “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” by Julian Casablancas – An actual, fully produced non-ironic song based off the SNL sketch with Horatio Sanz, Tracey Morgan, Chris Kattan, and Jimmy Fallon. Just the idea of it made me happy inside. I’m an SNL fanatic so this is great. Julian definitely put his own spin on it and it worked.
29. “Silent Night” by Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Not only is it a Jersey thing, but Aqua Teen is also hysterical, especially Meatwad. I love Meatwad. I wish he could be my real life meat-friend. I love his voice and his laid back nature. I also really love when he starts telling everyone how he’s “the Boss of music” in this version of “Silent Night” from Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas, the Aqua Teen Christmas album.
28. 12 Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie – A staple for me every Christmas since it came out. I’m not really a big fan of any version of the 12 Days of Christmas because they’re usually pretty monotonous, but this song is never unfunny to me. It’s Canadian humor went completely over my head when I was a kid. I didn’t grasp it at all when this was all over the radio. I just knew they kept talking about beer and thinking tuques, which I thought was funny. Bob and Doug’s interaction set to the sounds of the ’80s keyboard always warms my heart. Hoser.
27. “Christmas Is All Around” by Billy Mack – Romantic Comedies are no friend of mine. I try my best to watch one with Miss Sexy Armpit every couple of years. I give it my best shot, but I usually wind up despising every second of it. One that I did appreciate was 2003’s Love Actually. It’s a good movie for the ladies and it’s more than tolerable for guys as well (i.e. there’s boobs). Plus Bill Nighy sings “Christmas Is All Around,” which gave him a “Do Not Pass Go – Go Directly To My iPod” card.
26. “This Christmas” by Christina Aguilera – This is the one time a year I will listen to a Christina Aguilera song. Aguilera’s cover of the Donny Hathaway song is an excellent update to the 1970 holiday classic and still gets a lot of airplay 13 years later.
25. “Best Part of Christmas” by American Angel If there’s a cult classic status for Christmas songs, this one is in the top 5 for sure. This Jersey band had some decent buzz on MTV in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but was predominantly know for their huge local fan base. You may not have realized it, but their first Christmas song is solid. It’s a bit schmaltzy, but probably the best Christmas song to come out of the 80s rock scene. Think Survivor meets Honeymoon Suite.
24. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” by The Whirling Dervishes Another New Jersey band with a kickass rock rendition of the Grinch theme. If you don’t have it, get it, you’ll love it.
23. “Christmas All Over Again” by Butch Walker Not much of a detour from the orignal, but this is a bang up job covering Tom Petty. If you are a Butch fan you will love this. Very fun and upbeat.
22. “Christmas Tree” by Lady Gaga – Coming off her fantastic performance on SNL and awaiting her holiday special with the Muppets, fill the void with her electro-pop Christmas romp full of double entendres the way only Gaga can do it.
21. “Silver Bells” by Twisted Sister – There was a trend several years ago where a lot of the popular metal and hard rock bands of the 80s began to record their own Christmas songs and albums. Twisted Sister was at the forefront of this trend. Their A Twisted Christmas album was well done, often tongue in cheek, and actually worked since Dee Snider and Co. didn’t make it a joke, they made a legitimately good rock Christmas album.
20. “I Wanna Rock You Hard This Chrismas” by The Dan Band – You may remember this band singing an expletive filled version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the movie Old School. They continued their legacy with an original Christmas rock song filled with F-bombs and sexual innuendos.
19. “Jingle Bell Rock” by 38 Special – There’s a story about this one. When I was in my first year of college I was driving to class in my old Corsica and the stereo reception was extremely fuzzy that day. I was tuned into New York’s Classic Rock Station Q104.3 and I was making out little snippets of a rocking version of “Jingle Bell Rock.” With all the fuzz and the noise from the highway I couldn’t make it out well at all, but a small part of me thought that David Lee Roth was covering “Jingle Bell Rock.” If that was the case, it was imperative that I verify it. Why didn’t I know about this already? This began a several year quest to figure out what song this was. I called 3 DJs at the station about this. I researched their playlists, I scoured the Internet (which was not as advanced back then obviously) and I couldn’t find it. I searched every rock band’s discogrpahy that I thought it might be, but to no avail. Finally a couple of years ago, I was looking at a Christmas album on iTunes from a band who didn’t even enter my mind as a possibility back then. It was 38 Special. Definitely not anything like David Lee Roth, but with all the interference on the station I cut myself some slack. It is a really good rocking rendition of the song and I dig it eve though I still wish it was DLR. This mystery lasted almost 10 years, finally the case is closed.
18. “Rockin’ Christmas Time” by 40 Foot Ringo – You may know this band as a modern offshoot of the New Jersey band Trixter. This bouncy rocker just conjures up all kinds of awesome memories for me. The original Trixter lineup has been promoting their latest album Tattoos and Misery for the last year – check it out, it’s good stuff.
17. “We Need a Little Christmas” by New Christy Minstrels – This specific version was featured on an old album my parents got from a gas station. It’s upbeat with their signature folk sound and it gives me that nostalgic feeling. It was always the first song I kicked the season off with.
16. “Things I Want” by Sum 41 and Tenacious D – In this song there’s a ridiculous Christmas list that comes off almost like a bunch of weird ransom demands. “A Motley Crue Lunch Box filled with sticky buns.”
15. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams I refuse to acknowledge that Scott Weiland recorded a cover of this. This is the Jaws of Christmas songs because it’s such a damn classic that it shouldn’t be remade.
14. “Back Door Santa” by Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi saturated this popular Christmas song with their ’80s pop metal sheen replete with silly banter, synthesizers, and guitar solos. This was when the band was having fun before it became a weird corporation run by an egomaniac with more interest in politics than rock and roll.
13. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Dean Martin – The kind of music to get snowed in to. And toasted.
12. “White Christmas” by Darlene Love – Possibly the ultimate Christmas song from the greatest Christmas album of all time, A Christmas Gift To You From Phil Spector. It’s pretty damn perfect from the arrangement to Darlene Love’s vocal performance. Many people prefer “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), but if I had to choose, I’d go with “White Christmas” in the end.
11. “Winter Wonderland” by Johnny Mathis Another case of not being able to choose just one, I love mostly all of Johnny Mathis’ Christmas songs but this one is the most memorable to me thanks to it’s superb production quality and the songs ability to literally make me feel like I’m sledding in the middle of Hoth.
10. “Oi to the World” by No Doubt An energetic cover of the Vandals’ Christmas song.
9. “Christmas Vacation” by Mavis Staples – In the vein of ’70s R&B that she was known for with The Staple Singers, this theme song to one of my favorite Christmas movies ever was an instant part of my annual celebration. It accompanies the fun animated intro sequence to Christmas Vacation. Originally, before I was able to find a good copy of it, I started playing my Christmas Vacation VHS tape and held my boom box next to the TV speakers and recorded the song while the movie was playing. I used that for a few years before I was able to get it on a real cassette.
8. “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Carpenters – The Carpenters can do no wrong. Karen’s voice was soothing and calm and brings to mind sitting by my Uncle’s fireplace on Christmas eve, staring at the tree and the stockings, wondering what Santa would bring me in the morning. Plus the line “Christmasing with you” FTW.
7. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses – Belive it or not I grew up hating this song while my sister loved it. I would beg her to stop singing it. It didn’t take long for me to realize I actually adored it too and I was in denial. Originally it seemed kind of annoying, but I just looked past it. Sure it’s goofy, but it gets stuck in your head. It’s so familar now that it’s a holiday classic that you hear in tons of movies and commercials.
6. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney – For some reason this song gets a lot of flack. First of all leave Paul alone. This song is an ’80s Christmas classic, in fact, there was a huge blast of Christmas songs in the ’80s that wound up becoming perennial favorites and this is one of them in all of it’s synth glory. Watching him perform it on SNL last year was awesome too. While listening to this track it’s tradition that I get a small paper cup of spiked egg nog and march around the apartment like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the intro to Real Ghostbusters.
5. “Christmas Celebration” by Weezer – I’ve been a fan of Weezer since they debuted, and to the opposition of many fellow loyal Weezer fans, I actually still really dig their modern output, maybe even more than “classic” Weezer if you can fathom that. They recorded a couple of early Christmas tracks, but years later, around 2008, they released an EP on iTunes called Christmas with Weezer. I love all of their renditions of Christmas songs because they maintain the traditional arrangements but plug in electric guitars and incorporate their signature harmonies.
4. “Christmas In Hollis” by Run DMC – I lost count how many times I’ve rapped along to every word of this song. Using a sample of “Back Door Santa,” Run DMC concocted the greatest rap/hip-hop Christmas song of all time. I can never get enough of this one.
3. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by BRUCE Springsteen This song makes you feel like you’re down on the boardwalk in Asbury on a cold December day and you’re being introspective like Bruce would be…thinking of whether you’re going to be on Santa’s naughty or nice list. It’s a pure Jersey Christmas song and it’s a synonymous with the Christmas season for me.
2. “Last Christmas” by WHAM – Haters gonna hate, Sexy Armpit gonna love. Agree to disagree.
1. “All Alone on Christmas” by Darlene Love – Wall of Sound. CHECK. E-Street Band. CHECK. Recaptures the Phil Spector magic. CHECK. Tugs at your heartstrings. CHECK. Sax solo by THE BIG MAN. CHECK. References to her own song “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” CHECK. Nobody ought to be all alone on Christmas. Tell ’em Darlene.
Remember those family gatherings when someone at the dinner table would caution everyone not to discuss politics and religion? Well the 2008 film A Jersey Christmas obviously didn’t heed that warning because its abundant racial and moral commentary spoils this festivus for the rest of us.
My intention is always to give credit to indie filmmakers, not to needlessly rip them like some a-hole critics who know nothing about films anyway. Making an actual film that doesn’t look like it was slapped together accidentally by a 3 year old on his parents iPhone is a huge undertaking, and even if the movie sucks, most young directors and cast deserve an A for effort at the very least. If I was only judging it on effort, A Jersey Christmas would receive and A+ with a possible induction to the National Honor Society. Unfortunately, it boils down to one question for me: Will I ever want to watch it again? The answer is no, although, if some tweaks were made I’d make it part of my annual Christmas viewing tradition.
Clerks influence on indie filmmakers based in New Jersey is apparent since the story centers around a group of Christmas store employees. Kevin Smith would have a field day writing a film about this place because it’s way more diverse than the local Quick Stop. Coincidentally, mostly all of The Xmas-O-Rama employees don’t celebrate Christmas because of their various religious backgrounds. There’s a Jewish guy, a reformed Jewish girl, an Indian girl, an Arab, and a former Christian gay male who graduated from Rutgers with a masters in American Literature because he “likes to read.” The gist of the story focuses on how Christmas is viewed in the eyes of non-Christian twentysomethings. The group discovers that even though they express jealousy and frustration about the holiday, they are all brought together by the Christmas spirit.
As described on IMDB, “degenerate gambler” Mike Malcolm (James Villemaire) is in deep debt (or shit as we say here in Jersey) and owes a couple of thugs a lot of money. He runs a Christmas store to try to recoup some cash to pay his debts, but winds up screwing his employees out of several weeks pay. The action takes place on Christmas Eve when he demands that the store stay open until midnight to intercept last minute shoppers. Malcolm escapes to a poker game to try to win back some of his losses while the diverse crew at the Christmas store works late and hashes out their differences in religion, thoughts on Christmas, and even share some romantic moments.
I guess I was expecting something with a little more wacky hijinks. Often, the film teetered on the verge of being fun, but never officially made the jump. Sadly, the dialogue is so dumbed down and the characters refer to being Jewish and Arabic excessively. A Jersey Christmas would’ve benefited from making the racial/religious differences a minor theme instead of the main attraction. Regardless of these flaws, the cast is surprisingly natural and talented for a bunch of predominantly unknown actors. Anitha Gandhi and James Villemaire’s performances resonated with me.
Villemaire, who seems to be attempting to channel a young Mickey Rourke or Bruce Willis in this film, also co-directs with Eric Weber. Weber wrote the film, but I think it should’ve stayed on paper rather than been brought to life as a movie. This is the type of film that could be shown in college classes studying religious or racial tolerance; not so much the light hearted Christmas movie based in Jersey that I was hoping for. Ultimately, there really aren’t any similarities to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but there should’ve been. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a Christmas styled knockoff of Clerks. In that case the racial and religious references would be welcome. Snoogans.
What keeps me from ripping A Jersey Christmas is the fact that the film isn’t necessarily funny, but it’s not heart wrenching or dramatic either. Being middle of the road is it’s best attribute, since it would’ve totally lost my attention if it got bogged down in too much drama. This is one film you should only sink your time into if you just dig indie movies, or you have a serious obsession for all things Jersey like The Sexy Armpit does.
Since the production company, Tenafly Films, is named after a city in New Jersey, they not only filmed on location in Bergen County, NJ but they also infused plenty of Jersey shout-outs into the movie. Among others there were mentions of Garden State Plaza Mall, Kearny, Hackensack, and the Elmwood Park Diner.