Dinosaur Dracula!

Vintage Vending #2: Sticky Stuff!

Today we recall a true old faithful of the twenty-five cent prize arena: Sticky toys that stuck to things with their stickiness.

It’s Sticky Stuff! A collection of gooey doodads that will, quote, discolor paint! Yessss!

The photo looks bad, but rest assured, it’s just as blurry and crude in real life. That’s why I love it. It’s like Mrs. Peshill’s second grade art class doubled as a sweatshop for vending machine teaser card production.

From the low-rent logo to the odd positioning of the prizes, this was truly the work of the mad. If I remove the vision of imaginary Mrs. Peshill, all that’s left is some Igor-like creature, haphazardly assembling balls and bugs in his dead master’s laboratory.

“I ALSO AM WORK,” he’d say. To the mutant rats.

Prizes like these were available in the majority of vending machine areas. For us, they were the perfect backups. If everything else in K-Mart’s vending machines sucked, we could always shoot for a slimy grabber hand. It wasn’t #1 on our lists, but it sure beat stale Banana Runts. Hell, anything did.

This time, picking a favorite was easy. It’s that hot pink spiked mace! The common phrase, “it looks like friendly watermelons but can actually kill you,” has never been so apt.

Read More…

Vintage Vending #1: Random Toys!

Welcome to Dinosaur Dracula’s latest ongoing blog series: Vintage Vending!

As kids, there wasn’t one among us who didn’t get butterflies at the sight of those stupid red vending machines — the kinds with tiny toys and trinkets as prizes, hidden inside neat little egg-like capsules.

Those prizes never ruled our worlds, but they sure made the plainer parts of life a little more interesting. Every time I was forced to tag along on a trip to the supermarket or a department store, those vending machines saved the day. Even when Mom was in one of her “I shouldn’t spoil him” moods, it was never hard to talk her out of a few quarters.

And that was all it took! A few quarters! A few quarters, and I’d have a handful of stickers, slime and impossibly huge gumballs!

I’ve been doing these nostalgia rants for a hundred years, and it’s pretty surprising that I never dove into those old vending machines in a bigger way. Over the past year, I’ve amassed a huge collection of the prizes I grew up with, and man, they are a trip. Hundreds of little windows into the past, in the forms of cheap toys and reflective stickers.

In Vintage Vending, we’ll be revisiting many of these ancient prizes. By “ancient,” I guess I mean 10-30 years old. Some of these things will be foreign to you; others will magically transform you into a whining six-year-old, all over again.

Since I’ve been collecting the old vending machine teaser cards (the cardboard things placed in the glass, typically with the best prizes attached, to lure you in), most entries in this series will focus on one specific “type” of prize. This one? Not so much. It’s all over the place.

We’ll call this, I don’t know, Random Toys? Yeah, Random Toys. I’m starting with this one because it has something for everyone. (That’s a lie. Actually, I’m starting with it because there are at least five things for me.)

Spreads like this were (and continue to be) a vending machine classic. It was such a gamble, because no matter what piqued your interest on the teaser card, there was a pretty big chance that you’d end up with crap.

Worse yet, we sure were good at convincing ourselves that these teaser cards were indicative of the machine’s prizes in total. Never once did we consider the truth: Aside from the featured prizes, there was an unseen sea of trash hiding in the machine. Prizes so bad, they’d never be taped to the display.

And hell, even within the featured prizes, there are plenty of losers. I would not have been happy with one of those ominously numerous roller skate keychains, but I’m sure someone might’ve liked them. Then there’s that tiny red boat on the left – that was junk no matter who you were.

But Vintage Vending is supposed to be a celebration!  Let’s focus on the good stuff. Read More…

Chillin’ with Chilla.

One reason I needed to take a powder back in June was the opportunity to do some promo work with Chiller.

If you don’t know, Chiller is an all-horror channel, and I’d already fallen in love with it – mainly because it was the only place to see Tales from the Darkside on television. I had my heart set on spending the summer as an extremely unsuccessful webmaster, but I couldn’t pass up this chance.

It was a blast. The Chiller team was great, and I got to work with a bunch of movies that I became a fast fan of. (If I had to pick two, I especially liked The House of the Devil and Fragile.) Better still, I got to work with some of my old favorites, like Sleepaway Camp 2.

But let’s get back to Tales for a second. I grab every episode of it on my DVR, and watch them regularly. There are plenty of great ones, but even the worst of them are bizarre in a way that’s worth watching.

I’ve mentioned this series plenty of times before. It seems weird to say considering what the show is about, but nothing turns me into a tween again quite like Tales from the Darkside. As a lonely kid looking for any way to make those late night Saturdays more exciting, there it was, on the crappy old TV in my bedroom, ready to make me afraid of the dark, the windows, and the even the faintest foreign sound.  At least for the sheltered, this was sheer exhilaration.

If I recall correctly, Tales would lead straight into Star Trek: The Next Generation – a much needed respite from whatever terror I’d just endured. So long as it wasn’t the episode where Tasha Yar got eaten by black sludge. Read More…

Vlog: TMNT Sewer Exploration Belt, from 1990.

One of the less-referenced reasons why Playmates’ old Ninja Turtles toys were so great was that they were so strange, and nothing proves it quite like the Sewer Exploration Belt, from 1990.

A kid-sized arsenal of goofy crap in the vein of Batman’s utility belt, it covered every base. A real working compass! A big plastic bear trap! A can of ooze! TONGS!

With so much glory spanning across eighteen inches of green plastic, I needed a full fifteen minutes to explain it all:

And here’s the alternate link for YouTube loyalists.

With the Sewer Exploration Belt being so impossibly up my alley, I’m surprised I didn’t catch wind of it as a child. I might have been too big for it even by 1990, but I doubt that would’ve stopped me. Even if I couldn’t wear it, who could turn down a plastic device with a side container for retromutagen ooze?


I’d write more, but that’s what the video is for. It was carefully scripted, and guest stars one of Hollywood’s all-time greats. Enjoy it for however many minutes you can stand. I give you four, tops.