Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Whatever Happened To Pudding Pops?

Pop Culture Encyclopedias

X-TINCTION RATING: Revised and revived.

Revised and revived by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont's new book Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?: The Lost Toys, Tastes & Trends of the '70s & '80s (Perigee Books, 2011).

My bookcase dips in the middle under the weight of my pop culture library. From the massive, all-inclusive ABBA To Zoom to the pocket-sized Guilty Pleasures and bridging the gap between the anecdotal, countercultural RetroHell [1970s-1980s] from the writers of the Ben Is Dead zine to the pseudo-intellectual snooze that is alt.culture [1990s], you would think that another paean to pop cultural memories would be as necessary as a new Planet of the Apes movie.

Naturally, I had great interest to see what new insights could possibly be gleaned from a rehashing of pudding pop culture and McDonaldland memories, yet I was eager to take to the familiar froth of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific and TAB soda lamentations. What I found was better than a long-lost Scott Baio interview in Dynamite! If you wore it, played with it, watched it, danced to it, or saw it on tv and wanted it so bad, it likely gets a mention in this little book. There might not be a lot of new facts for longtime pop culture maniacs, but Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? is a surprisingly fresh selection of recollections from the obvious (Quisp, Marathon Bars) to the more obscure (Choco'Lite Bars; Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces) that should appeal to both seasoned and casual nostalgists alike.

For its comparably slender width, it's almost like those baggies of fun-size chocolate bar medleys: satisfying morsels that provide the ideal ratio of entertainment and educational value that other topical books don't achieve with such pith. Cooper and Bellmont pack a whopping (Hawaiian) punch of playthings, foodstuffs, and more in their book and manage to make each entry more fun and fascinating than the last. The writers' irreverent, never snarky humor and obvious appreciation of their topic electrifies each page. The witty, casual tone makes this a perfect summer read, especially if you are old enough to remember one or both decades. While the authors seem like old friends with whom you've shared your special childhood memories by the end of the book, I think Pudding Pops? would make for a fantastic book to read and discuss with friends and family (or a nostalgia-friendly reading group)! And, when you finally get to the end of the book, you just might find yourself eyeing it with the sadness of a kid looking for more candy. So, as it turns out, there was more room in my packed library, and Pudding Pops? is now one of my top general pop culture picks!

For the curious, 'pudding pops' have been resurrected and can be found in your frozen treats aisle. However, the authors and I can attest: they're not the same pudding pops we loved twenty years ago. As far as whatever happened to all your other long-lost favorites, you're going to have to get yourself a copy of the book to find out!

Essential Links:
Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? (official website)
Gen Xtinct (official blog)
Pop Culture Junk Mail (Gael Fashingbauer Cooper's blog)

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