Let’s Read California, December 1986!

Not that long ago we went through a different issue of California, so to recap:

California began life in 1976 as New West, a lifestyle and general interest magazine aimed at the glamorous young people who were moving to California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona in droves at the time. The magazine was sold to Rupert Murdoch in 1977 and moved through several more hands and corporations until 1980, when it was retooled to be more Los Angeles-flavored and renamed California. Circulation peaked around 1987, but after more management changes and constant format changes, the magazine declined sharply before shutting down for good in 1991.

There we go.


Sorry about the big censor boxes – I went to the public library for this issue (and how could I resist this cover?) and true to public library form, there was a bunch of stuff either stamped or stickered to the cover that would end in potentially doxxing my workplace and we don’t wanna do that. So, let’s get back to YO SANTA! Because holy 80s. Later on in the fashion editorial they reveal that this outfit (GLOVE-SLEEVE-PUFFS!) cost over 3 grand – yes, someone would have paid the equivalent of $8,000 for…THAT.

This was the time when ugly Christmas sweaters were just called “sweaters”. I remember that I loved going to Kmart around this time because all the sweaters were covered in pom poms and it was fun to bat at them like a cat. In fairness, I was five.

How about that rhinestone fringed cowgirl dress?

“Champenoise” is the classy way to say “champagne-ish”.

“Darling, in this soft light you resemble the improbably alabaster-skinned prostitutes of antiquity.”
“Yes, I’m afraid the whitewashing of beauty ideals in classical art for hundreds of years has contributed immensely to the racist idea that women of color, nay any individual not of light skinned European descent, cannot be viewed as beautiful.”
“So I should take this perfume back to Macy’s, then?”
“I didn’t say that.”

Damn, I miss Linda Ronstadt. I listened to this album while writing (yes yes the Internet is a gift we know we know shut up), and damn if the woman doesn’t sing like a proverbial Disney princess. This album was huge, and brought legitimacy to singers who make attempts at reviving the Great American Songbook. So in short…Fuck Parkinson’s.

I know Banana Republic sells bland preppy white woman clothing, but imagine a time when their products actually invoked a “banana republic”. So live out those rugged adventuresome safari fantasies with your douchey hat, boring middle class man.

This doctor is still practicing, albeit in a different location. Considering that he now brands himself a specialist in dermatology and skin cancer repair, I don’t think he’d put out an ad like this today. Which is good, because this ad is terrible.

PLASTODERM, because I guess CRACK SPACKLE was too gauche.

Is this the outfit that one wears to drink shitty brandy and open Christmas presents? What’s with the gloves? Is she a murderer?


I think what they’re getting at here is that Dior is as classic today (1986) as it was in 1948. Looking at Dior’s history, their menswear line at this time was called Dior Monsieur and would be called Dior Homme much later. The women’s line has always just been called Christian Dior. So maybe this is just a “happy holidays, don’t forget how fabulous we are” reminder and not for a specific collection.

I wonder if 80s and 90s fancy bottle tins are as ubiquitous for repurposing as those infamous butter cookie tins are. Anyone grow up in a household with a bottle tin like this? I did. Ours was used to hold important receipts.

He only gives me E&J Brandy
I’ve been cringing at this heart shaped box for weeks
I’ve been given all this shit and can’t send it back
I wish it was whiskey but it’s French Armagnac

This is what passes as party food for hot people in the 80s. Considering the food journey through space and time that we take each week usually involves 500 variations on mayonnaise-infused Jell-O, this ain’t too bad at all. This is pretty darn edible. It’s all over the place (corned beef and Caribbean black bean soup? Strawberry margaritas?), but I’d eat it. California party food today, in contrast, is largely hummus-centric by default.

So this has some kinda cool history. The Gap has always been a San Francisco company, and had launched GapKids early in 1986. The listing for the four stores here are not just what’s local – they’re the only GapKids stores that existed at the time.

Theater people call this initial 50 show run of Into The Woods the “pre-Broadway” version, because apparently nothing is legitimate until it’s actually been on Broadway.

Apparently to everyone who isn’t me, the photo behind the elaborately staged bowl of walnuts is of a dog. Everything from ghost to Klansman to luchador and combinations of the three was what my brain was trying to convey to me, so never mind. It’s a dog. It’s a ghostly white dog with hollow black eyes and no ears, but it’s a dog. It could also be the Phantom of the Opera, which came out earlier in the year? Dammit. It’s a ghostly racist wrestler dog who loves Broadway. Anyway, this is distracting me from my original point, which is that Midori looks like swamp water.

Having never seen Platoon, I can’t add much to the commentary, but this is a well written and evocative review. It was released in December 1986 (on Christmas Eve!), so with magazines being on the typical month ahead release schedule, the people reading this review would not have seen it. Also notable is the reviewer, highly lauded film critic David Thomson, singling out Forest Whitaker’s performance in The Color of Money as a “scene stealing fat black hustler”. Really, man?

WATS, or Wide Area Telephone Service, was basically the service that companies used to handle huge volumes of long-distance calls before getting phased out in favor of toll free 1-800 numbers (although they want you to call a 1-800 number to sign up, so…huh?) I hope I’m getting that right, this is something very much before my time and rather over my head. What they seem to be hyping here is a household-sized flat rate long distance plan modeled after the ones that huge companies subscribed to, which may be of interest to you because you’re so popular and international and cool.

I like this one. Boozy AND tasteful!

I really like the teardrop shaped ornaments! And that museum art calendar is probably awesome. I dunno about the decoupage comic strip pig, but I’m sure it’s to someone’s taste.

Shout out to Dickens Fair, one of my favorite things ever and a valuable source for old magazine hunting, among other delights! It has grown beyond Fisherman’s Wharf and now occupies a huge convention space in Daly City.

Phew – if I had to decide between The World’s Largest Office Party and a double bill Dana Carvey/Paula Poundstone show (sorry Bobby Slayton), I don’t know what I’d pick. Thankfully they’re a week apart. The World’s Largest Office Party seemed to be an official Hyatt hotel thing until about 2010, which is pretty amazing that it lasted so long.

As far as I know, the konban police stations are still there in Chinatown and Japantown.

Let’s sit four feet apart from each other and I’ll hold up this box in between us to further emphasize our personal boundaries, ok? Great. Don’t touch me. This is some good cognac, isn’t it Heather?

After accepting that his relationship with Heather wasn’t working, Mark soon met Linda, and they never saw each other without clothes on for the entirety of their marriage.

“You’ll soon wonder what ordinary mortals do in winter.”


That dress looks worryingly flammable.

Ernie’s, which they don’t mention was perfectly re-created for scenes in the film Vertigo, down to casting the owners as waiters, closed in 1996. Bummer. Guaymas, which closed just a few months ago, was infamous in recent times for increasingly terrible food and service (quoth Eater SF: “I’ve had better chicken enchiladas from the frozen food case at Trader Joe’s”). Going by the presentation of those tamales, which is very 1965 with all the radish roses (?) and tiny garnishing spoonful of beans and rice mixed together (?!), maybe not a crushing loss.

“So Karen and I were indulging in a little after-work ‘mating selection’ ritual with an evening cocktail at Guaymas, and she said ‘Scott, why don’t we try out the new Cambodian place next time?’ I looked at her over my immaculate tamale and radish roses and said ‘Karen, when did you get into poverty food?’ I mean, where are we, Ulan Bator? And then she got so huffy and said ‘Don’t make fun of me, you know I don’t watch Star Trek.’”

They certainly know their market.

At first I couldn’t figure out why this didn’t catch on. It sounds pretty great. Then I remembered that bosses hate small things. They do. A grumpy boss gets actively grumpier when you hand them something in text that isn’t larger than 12 point font. So handing your boss something that would have already been too small by default that would have been further reduced to three inches wide…would probably have resulted in this 2.0 pound box that fit conveniently in the palm of your hand being sailed out the 20th story window of your office building.

Evan has been buying Kimberly’s silence for three months now. She’ll remember to forget what she saw him doing in the copy room…as soon as her hot tub is paid off!

A few weeks later, at the Museum of Modern Art’s New Year’s Eve Charity Ball:

“Wow, Kim, those are some earrings you’re wearing.”
“Thanks! You paid for them!”
“And the hair is…”


Amanda has had her eye on Andres ever since that staff meeting where  he suggested filling the office water cooler with Perrier. What could be in that little box – is it for his not so secret admirer, Raquel, or could it be something for her?

Raquel suspects that something shady is going on between Kim and Evan, which is distracting her from the fact that Amanda is winning over Andres for the night. Not that she’s worried – the radio transmitters that she bugged Amanda’s earrings with will keep her on top of the situation.

Mr. Chatwal looks like a nice man, and unlike most of the restaurants here his place is still open (and is slightly reminiscent of what an Indian restaurant at Disneyland would probably look like).

Everything involved in that “Fresno dinner theater Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” ad, on the other hand, sounds like pure undiluted hell.

From an article on the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, which I actually went to over the summer (I got yelled at for standing too close to a Lichtenstein!). All I’m getting from this article is “thanks to the efforts of the disgustingly rich, we now have an art museum”, which, you know, credit where it is due after all.

Part of an extraordinarily sad and still very relevant article on the state of mental health care in California. While the issue is thorny and messy and ever complicated, what it boils down to is that instead of putting in the effort to make mental hospitals better, the state just shut the hospitals down and figured that mentally ill people could manage on drugs and the care of their families. Right. Various sources now put California’s mental health care around the high 20s and 30s in terms of ranked against other states, which is still not great or even good.

The anxiety that when a family caregiver passes away their adult dependent will have to manage on their own is very real – and given that this article is 30 years old, the people profiled in it have certainly had to go through this by now. I hope they’re okay, but I don’t have a lot of faith. Over a quarter of California’s homeless population, as of 2017, is classified as “severely mentally ill”.

I assume that if someone tried to send you a “California Snowman” in 1986 it would get seized by the feds, but this is apparently just a cup of water. Cute.

Susan Block was a major personality on the sex and dating scene in the 80s and 90s, and is still doing her thing today. She is credited with helping to popularize personal ads via phone message and radio matchmaking services, which previously had just been limited to print ads.

So once upon a time there was this inexplicably great restaurant in the middle of nowhere called The New Boonville Hotel, that was horrifically managed by some extraordinarily incompetent assholes who ran off with all their investor’s money. My favorite part is the horror stories from the waiter where even people with reservations had to wait an hour to get seated, but almost nobody complained because they just wanted to be seen at this super hip restaurant.

The proprietors fled to Oregon in a car that wasn’t even theirs, where they opened up a different restaurant that was also inexplicably great and somehow is still open today. You can catch up on their crazy story here.

And the wrap up of the articles, which I thought was convenient to being put on one page.

I always thought that the Absolut Vodka ads were a mid-90s thing, but they actually started in 1980. This one isn’t particularly groundbreaking, as obviously they can’t all be, but I like it just the same.

That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading! Next week we’re gonna cover something we haven’t covered before – Psychology Today, December 1970!Psychology_Today_Magazine_December_1970-2014_07_10_08_58_17-1000x1400