Cool vintage dresses & gross vintage recipes
Two great follow recommendations from Let's Get Physical author Danielle Friedman.
I didn’t post yesterday for maybe obvious reasons: Pretty much every American that I like online is angry and depressed by the news that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. When things like this happen, I try to leave space for people to get their feelings out.
Nothing has gotten better since yesterday, except that (I hope) abortion funds are getting an infusion of cash from new donors like me. I gave to the National Network of Abortion Funds, but The Cut has a good list of state-specific funds you can give to. If you have the means, please try to help as many people as you can.
Anyway, the show goes on! I hope this twofer of follow recommendations from last week’s guest, journalist Danielle Friedman, will bring you some solace.
Also, a reminder: Would you take this two-question survey about how you listen to Follow Friday? It will take 30 seconds, probably less.
70s Dinner Party
ERIC: Danielle, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who makes you laugh, and you said 70s Dinner Party, which is on Instagram @70sdinnerparty. They're also on Twitter @70s_party.
This is one of those follow recommendations that you have to see to believe. So if you are not driving right now, go ahead and pull up Instagram or Twitter, pull up 70s Dinner Party. Danielle, could you try to explain to the fine people out there, what the hell are they looking at?
DANIELLE: So. 70s Dinner Party features home entertainment guides and home cooking guides from, primarily, the 1970s that advertise recipes and … concoctions, I think is the best word, that look both incredibly hilarious and also completely disgusting.
There was quite a long era, I think, in-home entertainment — and as I say this, maybe this will be my next history project — around mid-century, heading into the 70s, when, among certain communities, it was considered kind of fancy to display and present your food in these very creative shapes of animals.
So the creator of this account has found some of the most outrageous and offered them up for our benefit. I feel like there are a lot of hotdogs involved, a lot of unexpected combinations of sweet and savory, a lot of food in the shapes of animals. And the captions are always very dry. I just love it.
ERIC: Some examples of 70s Dinner Party recipes: We have macaroni pineapple toss, banana sardine boats, cold spaghetti creams, and spunky shoulder slices, just to name a few. Yum, doesn't that sound … like food, maybe?
Did you grow up in a family that would make stuff like this or do you know people who had this as part of their childhood when they were growing up?
DANIELLE: Great question. I'm Jewish, and I feel like I did not see this as much among the Jewish homes I was attending for holidays and other gatherings and parties where this type of presentation might be warranted.
I am from the south. I'm from Atlanta, and I feel like it's not totally foreign to me. I might have encountered a beautiful hot dog cheese wheel at some point.
It's funny, because after years of following this account, I only recently looked up who is behind it. And it's a British book agent and publicist named Anna Pallai. A few years ago, she published a book that grew out of the accounts. But knowing that many of these guides are British sort of … explains a lot now. I think some of these recipes are very British in nature.
ERIC: I didn't want to demean the United Kingdom, but when I was looking at this, there was this weird Britishness about a lot of the food. I think British food has a reputation for being inedible and sometimes not being especially... like, all the best British food is from countries that they invaded, right?
So I do wonder if in a big city like New York or London, a big culinary city, could someone reclaim this sort of recipe? Is there a future for 70s Dinner Party food in some fancy restaurant? I'm not sure if that would work.
DANIELLE: I think certainly as kitsch. I would be delighted if I were to walk into a party these days, even if I might not want to eat it, if I saw an attempted recreation. But I think there's too much of a premium now on wanting food to taste good. We're living in a foodie culture and there would have to be some major tweaks.
ERIC: Yeah. Well, a different angle on it then, let's say you're having a party and you're having just your closest friends over. And the rule is, you have to make and eat one of these. You have to pick one of these from the 70s Dinner Party Instagram. If you have it open in front of you, is there any that seem less unappetizing, that you'd be willing to take a chance on?
DANIELLE: Let's see here. And by the way, I would definitely attend that party. I might need to throw that party; that sounds amazing.
ERIC: Please do, and send me pictures.
DANIELLE: You've got it. There's an Easter-themed rabbit that looks like some kind of coconut jellybean concoction. I mean, the rabbit itself looks devilish like it might need to be exorcised, but the food part looks pretty tasty. It looks like it would be some kind of coconut cake with jelly beans. I think I could get that down.
ERIC: I was cracking up at one in particular called the Smiling Dolphin, which is tomato juice and orange juice mixed together. And then it says, "Peel a banana for the dolphin, make a slit for the mouth, slide in a tomato tongue. Make the eyes from little bits of licorice and put the dolphin in the glass."
I'm just imagining… The two foods my fiancé hates the most are tomatoes and bananas. So I feel like the engagement would be off if I dared to make this.
DANIELLE: It's like a cruel and unusual form of punishment to present this and ask somebody you love to eat most of these recipes.
I also love this account, I should just say, because every now and then, they will post something that intersects with my beat of fitness history. For example, they recently posted something that looks like the cover of a book that's entitled Cooking in the Nude, for Golf Lovers.
It's just so random. There's a silhouette of a naked body. I've definitely reposted a lot of their stuff over the years, but I do love that. I've amassed a huge archival collection of mostly fitness materials myself, fitness artifacts. So this is sort of one or two steps removed, and I love it. I'm very grateful to Anna for creating this.
ERIC: I just ruined my Google search history by searching for "Cooking in the Nude, for Golf Lovers," and I found this listing on Amazon: "Combine your favorite game and your favorite partner with these sporty and suggestive romantic recipes. Dishes like Tees Me and Bogey Kebabs prove golf is more delicious with a twosome."
DANIELLE: Oh my God.
ERIC: "If your partner on the course is also the object of your culinary conquest, you won't want to take a Mulligan on this one." I think you need to buy all of the "Cooking in the Nude" books. There's a whole series that I think you need to add to your collection.
DANIELLE: You don't have to twist my arm. I will be trying to track them down as soon as we finish taping this.
ERIC: All right. Well, that was 70s Dinner Party, which is on Instagram @70sdinnerparty. They're also on Twitter @70s_party.
Laura McLaws Helms
ERIC: Welcome back to Follow Friday. Danielle, I asked you to tell me about someone who makes you think, and you said Laura McLaws Helms, who is on Instagram @laurakitty and who writes a newsletter at laurakitty.substack.com. She's also the host of the podcast, Sighs & Whisper.
Laura describes herself as a fashion and cultural historian. Could you explain what that means and what are the sorts of things that Laura shares online?
DANIELLE: Laura is a little bit of a renaissance woman who has intrigued me from the time that I first discovered her account. She is a fashion and cultural historian and she's also a writer, a podcast host, and a journalist. She's not associated with any one institution or publication.
She has spoken before about how she has amassed a gigantic archive of vintage magazines and other fashion literature. And what she posts online is basically glimpses of that collection along with a lot of video, in tribute to actors, directors, creatives, designers from times gone by.
At this point, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that I gravitated toward her account. What I really love about her account and what does make me think is that she has this wonderful ability to kind of elevate the low and the B-list and the C-list to the high. I love a good high-low mix.
I love that she inspires me to take a second look at movies or actors or culture from the past and reconsider its merits, and its meaning. I think in my work over the past few years, I have found value in looking at cultural trends or activities that have been written off as silly or trivial — for example, aerobics — and look to them as a source of insight into where we were at a particular cultural moment.
Her work has really been inspiring for me in that way. She also posts regular vintage exercise clips, of which there's just a huge trove to choose from. But again, she won my heart with that little thread, as well.
ERIC: And when you say vintage exercise clips, you're referring to VHS tapes that were sold, usually with a celebrity instructor on the cover? These are the stereotypical 80s tapes where everyone's wearing crazy pastel and neon colors?
DANIELLE: Yes, it was a phenomenon that was unleashed by Jane Fonda in her workout video in 1982. She sort of kicked off the trend and went on to become one of the best-selling home videos of all time. It sold 17 million copies. And by the end of the 80s, there were 500 workout videos being produced every year.
The celebrities who have produced workout videos are pretty hilarious. Everyone from Marky Mark, when he still called himself that, to Angela Lansbury, to Cher. Laura, the other day, posted a clip of Rita Moreno leading an aerobics class.
DANIELLE: Her whole thing, and she's spoken about this too, is that it's very unlikely that you would see her posting about Jane Fonda leading an exercise class. She goes for the sort of, the unexpected, the hidden, the kind of cultural ephemera that has been largely forgotten, but that is interesting.
In some cases, its weirdness and B-list status — and I'm not speaking about Rita Moreno here — but its B-list status is kind of what makes it feel a little bit refreshing.
ERIC: Absolutely. I think that's the thing. Sometimes we can look at videos and photographs and old movies and things like that and our instinct can be to laugh at, "Wow, look how ridiculous they looked then." Of course, we are, in doing that, damning ourselves to be laughed at by future generations.
Is there a specific thing that Laura has posted that really shifted your perspective?
DANIELLE: This was actually an interview she gave where she talked about how she finds vintage retro clips of the usual suspects, the people that we associate with a particular era as being kind of boring, and just the value in surfacing some of these hidden figures and hidden characters.
So I really did keep that perspective in mind as I was researching my book, which does resurface a lot of cultural figures who have been largely forgotten by history.
Every year at the Super Bowl, she posts a clip of Debbie Reynolds in a musical act, being tossed as a human football. And I love it. I would need to look up the exact credit. It's from a film.
But as someone who isn't a big football viewer or — I don't pledge allegiance to any team or anything — I always appreciate that. It's my vibe. Debbie Reynolds as a human football, singing and dancing, feels like the kind of Super Bowl show I want to see.
ERIC: I just Googled "Debbie Reynolds human football". Apparently, it's from a 1953 musical called I Love Melvin, which … not a great name, not a very interesting name.
But one more thing about Laura is that she was written up in Vogue last year for her vintage wedding dress. It was designed by Elizabeth and David Emmanuel, who are the same people who made Princess Diana's wedding dress and dressed a bunch of other celebrities.
Is there a specific designer or a specific historical vintage look that you aspire to?
DANIELLE: I've always been drawn to the 60's aesthetic, and I love Mary Quant. I'm not really a miniskirt wearer myself, especially at this stage in my life, but she basically popularized the miniskirt. I saw an amazing exhibit, a kind of retrospective on her career at the V&A museum in London a few years ago. She captured and helped to fuel the swinging 60's aesthetic in London.
I will say maybe not so much in fashion, but I've always tried to emulate the 60's makeup look of the cat eye and the paler lip. I just love that look.
ERIC: Did you see that movie, Last Night in Soho, that came out last year?
DANIELLE: I haven't seen it yet because I'm not a big thriller or horror movie watcher. I heard it was excellent and I wished I could see it, but I weighed the fashion with the sleepless nights....
ERIC: Don't get me wrong. The last at least two-thirds of that movie is extremely disturbing, but I feel like you might appreciate the first 20-30 minutes. It's a fashion designer who loves the swinging 60s who gets transported back to the 60s. There's a very nice non-horror movie that could have been made with that.
DANIELLE: Yeah. Maybe I'll check out the first 30 minutes and see how I'm doing.
ERIC: Exactly. The first time you're scared, just turn it off. Anyway, that was Laura McLaws Helms who is on Instagram @laurakitty.