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Retro Robots, Doo-Wops from Outer Space, and a Diner named Googies!


World War Two ended with a Yankee Doodle Dandy bang: a really big juicy atomic one, with lots of oomph and kaboom, so, let the fornication begin!

Johnny came marching home again hoping to hop in the sack and bang Rosie the Riveter. It was time to give peace a chance and to grab a post war piece of peace ass. This was the germination of the 1950’s Baby Boomer Era. The Atomic Age was unleashed and the atom splitting genie was out of the bottle, never to return. The ghost of Jules Verne was jet propelling rocket scientists into a death race for space with the American Eagle and the Soviet Bear in a Texas Death Match for the Nuclear Heavyweight Championship Title. UFO sightings became plentiful in the southwestern deserts and the mad hatter Motor City auto engineers were styling cars to look like rocket ships with gigantic fins almost phallic in nature. Some had false air vents, to simulate “power” that was not really there, but it looked really cool anyway.

Tail lights on T-Birds resembled rocket after burners, while other vehicles had protruding front bumper adornments, called Dagmars (after the nicely endowed actress of the same name) that were a testament of worship to the ample breasts of Carol Doda and other strippers. These puppies were worthy of placement in any ones imaginary and erotic “field of dreams.”

Television, along with the new “Tin foiled TV dinner”— at an impressive .98 cents— delighted our sci-fi G-spot with serialized tales of Buck Rogers and Commander Cody.  Space age animation created a true “nuclear family” in the Jetsons, starring George and family, along with Rosie the Robot, living in a home that more resembled the Seattle Space Needle than a suburban domicile with garage. Twilight Zone gave us doses of humanoid-robot romance at times. Strange? Yes, maybe. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it: we love our gadgets in the digital age anyway.

At the movies, it was 35mm doom and gloom on a global scale: giant women, giant spiders, giant this, and giant that; some featured friendly and some not so friendly Retro Robots who cavorted laying waste to the planet on the silver giant screens of the drive in movies. The nuclear age gave us something else very big as well: huge nightmares of annihilation and duck-and-cover under the school desk drills (like that would do any good. Just ask the residents of Hiroshima!) and it was responsible for the cinematic creation of Tokyo’s favourite pissed off lizard, Godzilla.

All this space preoccupation and threat of a hot Cold War created a genre of styling that is nostalgic and sexy at the same time. Sometimes referred to as Retro Doo Wop in styling, it’s better known as Googie. Googie history is murky at best, but most agree that the first building with an actual “googie” imprint was the Googies Diner/Coffee Shop on Sunset Boulevard. It was given a design makeover in 1949 and, up until then, there was nothing like it. It was a style in search of a name and definition. The origin of the name Googie is simpler to explain. It was the name of the owners wife and the name of the diner. In the early part of the Fifties a journalist with a home design magazine was driving past the Googie Diner, was suitably impressed, and in his subsequent article on the style, he referred to it as Googie: the name stuck and the rest is pop culture history.

 

The futurist styling of commercial buildings was underway like a cattle drive guided by architectural cowboys and cowgirls. Diners and gas stations starting sprouting up like magic mushrooms sporting upswept rooflines and lots of sexy curves that would make Marilyn Monroe fall in love with another woman. Even Googie has architectural rock stars of exemplary style including the original hap hap happiest place on earth, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, especially ground control to Major Tom Tomorrowland. Early Bugsy Seigal gangster Vegas with the Flamingo Hotel and the Sands with their star burst signs and illuminated plastic paneling gave the Googie Era a Chairman of the Board Rat Pack ring-a-ding-ding air about it.

By the 1970’s architecture began a hasty retreat from standout to standback and began to blend into their urban surroundings. Blending was bland in the field of architecture like the music and polyester clothing that also defined the decade of the Seventies… Disco! Even the glitter balls had more balls then the architects of the day.

Disneyland is still standing as are other fine examples of Googie such as the main terminal at Dulles International Airport, the LAX building in L.A. and the Space Needle in Seattle looking more like an alien UFO coming in for a landing though the fog and rain of the Northwest. Unfortunately, just as Norma Desmond in the film Sunset Boulevard whose heyday was long past, Googies on Sunset Boulevard was demolished in 1989. An architectural murder of the first degree. Goodbye Googie! We’ll see you in our retro wet dreams.