Pippa Dee and the Tupperware Mountain

Guest Blogger Joanne Fox is back for another trip down memory lane

When I was growing up in the seventies, it felt like the boom-time for party-plan selling. Few weeks passed without my mum and our neighbours visiting one another’s homes to swoon over the latest ranges of clothes, make-up and kitchenware that could be bought on a party-plan basis.

The concept was simple but effective. Imagine you make an innocent comment to the lady who’s just moved in along the road. “That’s a nice blouse,” you say, privately thinking the swirly orange pattern reminds you of your lounge curtains.

“It’s from Pippa Dee,” she replies. “Would you like to come to my next party?”

70's style pink nylon nightdress for sale at www.retrochicvintage.comTo be friendly, you go to the party, noticing how the menfolk of her household have made themselves scarce before guests arrive. The hostess’s daughter models a few frilly tops. You feel obliged to purchase a serviceable bra so that your hostess will make enough sales to receive her free gift.

Just when you think you can escape, a couple of other guests decide they will arrange parties – and of course you are invited. Now you have to go to their houses and buy more overpriced clothes so they can get their free gifts too. But never fear, because you can always have a party of your own and it’ll be your turn for the free gift. Hurray! You’ve only spent a small fortune on clothes you’ll never wear to get that lilac baby-doll nightie which will give you a shock of static every time you put it on.

When I was about ten I had two pink nylon Pippa Dee nightdresses. I can still remember how I detested the feel of the cold material, which did much to put me off man-made fabrics for life. To me all their clothes looked terribly old-fashioned, but one guest who found inspiration at a Pippa Dee party was Jacqueline Gold, now chief executive of the Ann Summers chain. Back in the eighties she saw how the concept of party-plan selling might revive the Ann Summers business, which was then owned by her father.

Tupperware party invitation At your Pippa Dee party you would be expected to provide a few nibbles, and what better to serve them in than your extensive collection of Tupperware? Following its invention in the 1940s by Earl Tupper, Tupperware became king of the party-plan circuit. Any time that people thought they had enough pastel-shaded bowls, boxes and cruet sets to build a Tupperware mountain, out would come some new item that nobody realised they needed until it was demonstrated by the party organiser.

I particularly remember we had a round, white Tupperware dish which was divided into half a dozen sections. There was a handle which screwed into the centre, and the dish had its own lid. It was used a lot for peanuts and crisps if we had visitors, or for bits of salad for Sunday tea. The second Tupperware item that sticks in my mind is a pale green beaker, again with a lid. Whenever I went on a school trip the beaker would come with me, filled with orange squash which never tasted very nice. During holidays, Tupperware really came into its element. Picnics on the beach would feature hard-boiled eggs, pickled onions, cheese and cucumber sandwiches, and other delights, all packed neatly into every possible size of Tupperware container.

In the late 70s Tupperware’s popularity began to wane and I remember a brief fad for stainless steel parties instead. However Tupperware has since regained its place in the party-plan market, with the result that there was recently estimated to be a Tupperware party held every 2.5 seconds!

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Jim’ll Fix It

Jim fixing it for a kid to have tea with K9 from Doctor WhoJim’ll Fix It started in 1975 and ran till 1994, though the peak of the show will always be the Seventies for me. Jimmy Savile hosted the ‘fix it’ show which was all about granting wishes for people who wrote in. There was no charity or sick kids involved in this which there would be now, it was basically whoever wrote in the funniest or cleverest wish that would get picked to have their wishes granted.

The one I remember the best were the scout troop who wanted to eat their packed lunch while riding a rollercoaster. One of the reasons this wish was so memorable was that a clip of it was used in the opening credits. I clearly remember this poor kid holding a drink bottle with straw and getting covered, but laughing his socks off. Today my memory was jogged by trying to eat a McDonald’s in the car while Alys was driving. Kind of has the same feel to it.

Jim looking slightly more bizarre than usualSo anyway, another thing about Jimmy Savile was how weird looking he was. He was tiny and skinny with long white-blonde hair, dark glasses, wearing a track suit and hundreds of gold chains and rings and a freaky false laugh. He also always had a massive cigar in his hand even though most of the time it wasn’t lit. Not the sort of person most people would leave their kids with? Strangely no-one questioned that.

Jim'll Fix It medal - they sell them on ebay nowAfter people had been ‘fixed’ they got a medal on a red chain, which said ‘Jim fixed it for me’. And you can make your own badge now as well. How cool is that? Adults and kids got ‘fixes’ and sometimes other people would write in to get a fix for their friends or family. A few times I remember famous people being fixed, either because someone wrote in before they were famous or because there was a special show for famous fixes.

Jimmy was a popular DJ and carried on working as a DJ while also presenting this show. He used to present Top of the Pops sometimes, and also do a Sunday lunch-time thing that my mum used to listen to, where he would play some song from the dark ages and ask people to ring in with the name of the song and artist. He was always a stickler for the full title, including bracketed phrases that were popular in the sixties.

According to wikipedia, it wasn’t Jimmy that granted the wishes at all, but the producer of the show. So I’m at a loss as to work out what Jimmy’s role was apart from to play the sugar-daddy.

Apparently there is now a comeback show, though I’d never heard of this until I did the research for this post. That scout troop have gone back and done the ride again. Now that makes for some good youtubery.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Servalan

Servalan looking gorgeous and deadly in Children of AuronAlthough Blake’s 7 has already been covered on popandcrisps, I need to dedicate a post entirely to my prepubescent lesbian wet dream, Servalan. I’ve been researching the Servalan wardrobe recently due to a baking project I’m working on. My lovely writer friend Susie has already beaten me to it on that score but I have some youtubery planned for the Bake 7 bunch that is entirely popandcrisps.

Weird thing about Servalan is that she was ultra-femme vamp yet psychotic murderer and I do wonder how and why I got so obsessed with her. No, really, I was banned from watching. I don’t know whether this was because I started acting like her or my lust was obvious to everyone except me. Because this obsession started long before I even knew what a sexuality was.

So is Servalan a lesbian icon? Well, the fact that there is a drag act devoted entirely to her demonstrates that she’s probably a gay icon. There is the haircut of course, Servalan being the first woman with shaved hair I saw on TV.

Jacqueline Pearce, the actress who played Servalan has according to Wikipedia, settled down in a monkey sanctuary in Africa. I probably would too if there were men dressing in off-the-shoulder dresses and pretending to be me.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Brotherhood of Man

Brotherhood of Man in the SeventiesDoes anyone know why the Brotherhood of Man had two women in it? I never understood that as a child, why wasn’t it the Siblinghood of People? Or if it were the Brotherhood of Man then it should all be men, shouldn’t it? Of course, the whole ‘two men two women’ thing was modelled on Abba and of course there’s the Eurovision connection.

For years I thought that the BofM Angelo song was by Abba (theirs was Fernando with a very similar tune and story and according to Wikipedia BofM got into trouble about that). Both of them are about a girl and a boy eloping and running away together. I’ve just listened to Angelo again on YouTube and it’s really sad, so that’s probably why I didn’t like it much as a child.

My favourite BofM song and one of my favourite Seventies songs altogether is Save all Your Kisses for Me which was the one they entered and won the 1976 Eurovision song contest. The original Seventies lineup are still touring, and now have a ‘Seventies Show’ special (see their website).


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Fanny Cradock

Johnnie (left) and Fanny CradockIt’s just not Christmas without some Fanny. I mentioned her earlier in the year when talking about Seventies food. Fanny Cradock had a cookery show which may well have been the first of the ‘performance cookery’ style shows you still see today. Every year we watch the same Christmas series of Fanny in repeats, and snigger at the scene where she lubricates the dry bird.

What I love about Fanny Cradock is the way she dresses as if for a dinner party, jewellery, makeup (her eyebrows two inches higher than they should be), and this fixed big hair that makes her look like a doll or a drag queen. I find this appearance so fascinating that I watch her moving more than what she’s cooking.

Then she’s so bossy, really stroppy about people who don’t do things her way and don’t listen to her instructions. For instance she tells the story of the woman who bought orange flower face wash to put in a cake because Fanny’s recipe had orange flower water in it. And she bosses around her assistants who come in to clear up after her. We’re all used to this sort of thing from chefs now since seeing bad tempered people like Gordon Ramsay, but it was quite shocking in the Seventies to see someone so rude on telly.

Fanny fell out of favour in 1976 by crossing the line in rudeness. She insulted a woman who’d won a prize to cook with her and her show was taken off the air. Full story on Wikipedia.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

The Good Life

Tom and Barbara of The Good Life in their gardenMost people who decide to go self sufficient will move to the country to live the good life on a farm. Tom and Barbara Good didn’t want to move so they converted their suburban semi into a small holding, much to the dismay of Margot and Jerry, their neighbours. This was the premise of the sit-com The Good Life which was one of my favourite adult programs when I was a child.

The main reason that I loved it was because it seemed so lovely to be able to live off the land like that, grow your own food, make your own clothes etc. Though it seems in retrospect (repeats on satellite) that it is a bit too twee and not realistic at all. It was, apparently, based on a true story of a couple who did just what Tom and Barbara have done. But probably with a lot more hard work and less laughs. The run-in with the local fruit&veg seller could have been much more dangerous for instance.

Tom and Barbara on left, Margot and Jerry on rightThe comedy stems from the difficulties Tom and Barbara encounter by trying to live a simple life in complex surroundings. For instance they have no income and have to pay their rates, so raid a pennies jar and go to the council offices with a large bag of coins. After they’ve paid the tax, as they walk through town they realise that they have no money left in the world, and Barbara needs the toilet but they have no penny for the public loo.

There is also a lot of comedy surrounding Margot’s distaste at the home-made food and wine Tom and Barbara serve when she visits, and the mud in their garden. There is nearly always a scene where Margot falls into something horrible or gets splashed and of course she is very fashion-conscious with high heels and expensive clothes. Margot was very houseproud and Jerry generally portrayed as hen-pecked.

Bird and flower from opening credits of The Good LifeThe opening credits were an animation of a bird flying around a daisy which loses its petals and they are replaced by the letters of the title. I really liked that as it was quite simple and very Seventies. Huge flowers and birds were ‘in’.

Tom and Jerry annoyed me but I loved Barbara and thought Margot was fabulous. Barbara was played by Felicity Kendall and Margot by Penelope Keith. These were my favourite characters, though according to Wikipedia, the show was written as a vehicle for Richard Briers who played Tom.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

High Street Hardship

Bread queue in London from BBC websiteToo much talk is going on lately about how we can’t afford to buy stuff. This is driving me bonkers. In the Seventies we had to queue up to buy bread and there was a rule of only one loaf per family. How on earth would today’s families cope with that? There’d be a public outcry with people complaining that the government should do something. Actually, the reason for the shortage of bread was a bakers’ strike, but there were all sorts of other shortages and people just didn’t buy the number of non-edible consumables that they do today.

Many people then didn’t have one car, let alone two. If you had a fridge that was good, and very few families owned a freezer. One TV for the whole family was the norm, situated in the living room. Kids who had TVs in their bedrooms were considered spoiled. There wasn’t such a thing as a games console, but when personal computers started appearing, they would also be used in the family main room – generally because you had to hook them up to the TV to use as monitor. I remember laughing when I found out my Gran had got a little black and white portable TV for her kitchen. It seemed completely crazy.

We didn’t have carpet upstairs. It was this awful green ancient lino that was brittle and had holes in it. Under the green it was black, and the edges of the holes were black soft plastic stuff a bit like tar. Where the holes were the floorboards showed through and you’d get splinters if you went around in bare feet. I was about fourteen when I first had carpet in my bedroom and it seemed an amazing luxury, yet this is something we take for granted now.

Our infants’ school uniform was gingham, bloody horrible gingham. My mum bought yards of the stuff and made dresses for us all from the same pattern. We had pants and socks new but everything else came in large bin bags from Gran, where she’d got all her friends in the village to donate their children’s cast-offs. I remember going shopping for clothes for the first time with my Mum when I was about twelve, to the market and I had my first ever pair of jeans.

Let’s face it, the people who are suffering in this credit crunch are not the people who have stopped buying all this junk. They (we) don’t need it, don’t know we need it until the advertisers tell us we do. We can easily do without it. The people who are suffering are the retailers and manufacturers of the junk, who have got used to a certain level of goods sold. They are going to have to find something else to do with their business instead of being purveyors of trash. Perhaps they could go and work as farmers or doctors or something more useful?

Next time I hear someone complaining because they can’t afford the latest gadget or clothes that are ‘in season’ I’m going to scream. Really scream. And then I’ll be locked up. But at least I won’t have to listen to spoilt Thatcher-generation whiners.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room