And a cuddly toy!

The 1970s was a golden decade for TV in Britain. We were dazzled by the glamour of imports such as Starsky and Hutch and The Streets of San Francisco. (And I mean dazzled.) We also reveled in homegrown offerings from game shows to soap operas to police and hospital dramas.

The Generation Game was a big favorite at 3 Brooklands Avenue. (In a country of three TV channels, it was a big favorite all over the United Kingdom.) Bruce Forsyth was the popular host who greeted the audience with “Nice to see you…” to which I’d shout back from our green velour sofa, “To see you nice!” Thus bonded, he’d take us on a journey of family fun. His lovely companion was Anthea Redfern; I was deeply moved by her pretty blonde hair and beautiful dresses. I beg you to click here and witness the fabulous start to every show, where Anthea is asked by Bruce to “Give us a twirl” so we can admire her dress. It pretty much sums up that decade in suburban England.

I think the premise of the game was that it brought different generations of the family to play in teams and carry out a number of tasks—acting in a skit or throwing a clay pot—all of which led to hilarity and canned laughter. But the climax was that one member of the winning team had the chance to win swag.

The contestant would sit in front of a conveyor belt, revealed from behind silver doors, which would display a range of (often electric) goods. After watching the conveyor belt parade its treasure, the silver doors would shut and the contestant had 45 seconds to win any items that s/he could remember. The tension was amazing and I helpfully shouted out what I had seen: an electric kettle, a luggage set, an electric blanket, a hairdryer, an electric teasmaid, a golf set, and on and on, but always including a giant cuddly toy. It was an unimaginable bounty of goods to the average British family in the 70s, and incredible that you could win everything just by remembering it. For free! Please click here to get the full Generation Game experience. And watch out for the emblems of 70s living — the steak fondue set, the sun lamp, and the Polaroid camera. I think our family was lucky enough to have all three.

I was reminded of the conveyor belt at a recent fundraising dinner in D.C. I was unusually antsy and snuck out during the speeches. After two restroom trips, there was nothing to do except stare at the silent auction art. Silent auctions are apparently the dumpsters of the art world. Artists donate their least saleable pieces, patrons offload their mistakes, and new purchasers gallantly bid after cheap chardonnay hits an empty stomach. The only good that comes out of this is the money raised for the nonprofit, which is of course the point.

There was no cuddly toy, but if you had been there you could have won:

  • Liza with a Z poster signed by Liza. (Yes, a gay fundraiser.)
  • Transamerica poster signed by someone. (Further confirmation.)
  • Two paintings of garish flowers — one roses, one sunflowers. (I think the same person is supplying every silent auction.)
  • Two photorealist paintings of a tropical island. (In the world of tattoos someone always has a dolphin. And in the world of silent auction art someone is always recreating a 1980s Athena poster.)
  • A blue canvas with a cryptic yellow stripe. (Nothing more, nothing less, nothing.)
  • Entitled Woman to the Left, a pastel drawing of a naked female upper torso placed … to the left of the frame.
  • Lichtenstein poster from a 1979 exhibition Art of the Sixties at the Tel Aviv Museum (Ok, so there’s always one cool thing.)
  • Two fantastical Italian glass tropical bird ornaments with long yellow beaks. (Finally some fabulous kitsch!)
  • Two black and white photographs of male hunks, each with one detail enticingly tinted — a red t-shirt being removed in the first, a green Speedo in the second. (You know you want it.)
  • Take a Rothko, shrink it down to a 24”x24” square in red and light red, and have it made in a handy matching pack of four. (I think they got this from HGTV.)

After a few minutes I realized this was the reverse of The Generation Game. I didn’t want to remember anything and I did not want to take anything home.

Ok, I know it’s easy to slam on bad art; these people were trying to do a good thing, and when have I ever done anything creative? But seeing the random art propped up on easels and against walls in a cold and empty hotel ballroom was depressing. Depressing, that these people were expending all that energy creating more pointless stuff. At least the electric blanket keeps you warm.

2 responses to “And a cuddly toy!”

  1. Lisa Parrish says:

    It so happens that my favorite UK import is my “electric teasmaid”.

    Oh, wait. It’s missing an “e” in there.

  2. Stephanie Wells says:

    WOW, were those clicks ever worth it. That “cuddly owl” rivals the cow cookies for creepieness. And the “jungle green . . . River Thames” banter was sidesplitting . . .