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6 Get-Rich-Quick Schemes From Vintage Comic Books

A lot of ads in old comic books just wanted your money. You send in the cash; you get the low-quality novelty toy that will teach you an important lesson about trusting anyone who purports to sell you alien technology that can see through ladies' clothes. But there were other ads in those old comic books, placed by companies who wanted you to give them other people’s money. All you had to do was hit the pavement and sell their products door to door. In return you’d get money, prizes, and a start in the business world. Usually.

1. Engravaplates

Identity theft was harder to accomplish in the 1970s. So much so that people might actually want to carry around a metal plate with the numerical key to their entire life engraved on it. That was the hope behind the Cardinal Sales Inc. trademarked “Engravaplates.”

Customers would be “amazed and delighted” to discover the plates only cost $2, “especially when they discover they also get a Smart Carrying Case, and ID card, and an exclusive 10-Year-Calander – All Free!”  Best of all, as the all-important middle man in this transaction, you would keep one dollar of every sale. Think how that adds up! “Take as many as 10 or more orders in an hour, and make as much as $10 or more in every spare hour you devote to showing the sample plate.”

Engravaplate maintained its 1972 trademark an impressively long time for a third-person novelty sales object, until 1995. And they didn't limit their sales pool to adolescents, putting much simpler ads in Field & Stream, Popular Mechanics, and Ebony magazines.

2. Sunshine Studio Cards

Sunshine Studios Inc. (a stationery company founded in 1951 that appears to still exist) managed to stuff a lot of manipulative sleight of hand onto a single page of a 1973 copy of “Secret Romance.” Are you smart enough to pass our test? (Psh. YES.) Because we’ll give* you a lot of money if you can. (Money? Now you’ve really pulled my attention away from my copy of Tiger Beat with Erik Estrada and Scott Baio on the cover.) Seriously girls, people will buy these personalized Christmas cards from you, because they’d cost twice as much in a store. (Omigod that is such a bargain!) “All you have to do is show these cards to people you know. The cards sell themselves.”

Just show the cards. And be prepared, as avarice and desire cloud the faces of your loved ones while they whisper in dry voices, “I must have them,” pushing cash and heirloom jewelry into your hands. Sign me up!

*We will not give you any money.

3. SLC Personalized Christmas Card

Oh, Sunshine Studios Inc., you are a crafty minx. You were the parent company of many “children-shilling-stationery” programs under many names, including the Sales Leadership Club, a popular way for kids to try to earn awesome prizes clear into the '90s. Again, the game was selling personalized Christmas cards, but a slightly different twist was used to lure the younger readers of Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery and Boys' Life. Forget the cash. Look at the STUFF! Whatever your penchant, you can earn enough money to indulge it, from rocket kits to professional-style hair dryers.

And, even more delightfully, SLC was totally on the level, and remained a member of the Better Business Bureau from the '50s to the '90s. With a little hustle, you really stood a chance of winning that Deluxe Two Band Radio. 

4. Grit Magazine

As a fervent student of history, it leaves me gob smacked that I had never heard of Grit. Because when they tell their potential salesboys that they are America’s Greatest Family Newspaper, they weren’t flim-flamming. Grit was founded by a German immigrant named Dietrick Lamade in 1885. That fact alone isn’t so surprising until it is combined with the fact the Grit still exists! Both online and in published form, it enjoys a hearty circulation among American’s rural inhabitants, as it has for nearly 130 years.

Entrepreneurship wasn’t the only challenge the Lamades offered the young men of America; one of Lamade’s sons was a top executive in the Little League Baseball association. The Lamades contributed liberally to making Little League a national institution, which in turn gave them a healthy pool of recruits to sell their newspaper to its intended small town readers.

Grit was very popular; one reason was because it was not a “real” newspaper. It was Lamade’s business practice to never include any news that would depress or drain hope from his readers, and his pages were packed with comics, stories, and amusing human interest, with a special focus on rural living. Seven cents profit per copy might have not been a bad deal for such a well-received product. 

5. American Seed Company

Gather round and hear the tale of an American tragedy. So … did YOU sell American Seed Company seed packets in your neighborhood when you were young? If so, perhaps you are one of the guilty. The American Seed Company operated a business dynamic with its adolescent salespeople that, while seeming quite unsound by today’s standards, served them well for decades. The child would send in for the seed packs, sell them, send back all the money, and earn a nice prize, like a badminton set, or a pocket calculator. But between 1975 and 1981, 400,000 children sent away for seed packages and never sent any money back. Because why should they? They could just keep the money, and The American Seed Company could go pound salt. So, in 1981, the company went out of business, bilked out of existence by the earliest tides of a cynical, grungy Generation X.

6. Olympic Sales Club

Oh sure, it’s greeting cards again. But if the Facebook fan page is any judge, Olympic treated their little minions pretty well. They advertised more and better prizes than their competitors, filling every square inch of ad space they could spare with drawings of (often name brand) loot, from Huffy Motocross Bikes (sell 64 boxes of cards) to the Deluxe Uno Card Game (just 7 boxes!).

Eventually, Olympic Sales became Olympia Sales, and according to Kelly, who answered the phone at Olympia, they stopped having kids selling door to door around seven years ago: “It’s just the age we live in, you know? No one wants their kids selling door to door.” Olympia still produces cards, but now only for wholesale to distributors.

There is good news for the parents and grandparents who successfully earned Pink Panther Radios and Kodak Instant Cameras, and wish their own progeny could have the same experience. Kelly hinted that Olympia might be considering bringing back a form of kid-driven distribution in the future, via internet, which would make it the only sales scheme on our list to keep enterprising kids on the payroll.

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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11 Fun Facts About The Wedding Singer
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

On February 13, 1998, Adam Sandler gave Valentine’s Day sweethearts a retro treat with The Wedding Singer, a 1980s-set rom-com about a heartbroken wedding singer named Robbie Hart (Sandler) who falls in love with a waitress/bride-to-be whose married name will leave her as Julia Gulia (Drew Barrymore).

At this point in Sandler’s career, he was known more for his puerile comedies like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, not as a romantic leading man. The Wedding Singer changed all that. After earning its $18 million budget back during its opening weekend alone, The Wedding Singer went on to gross $123 million worldwide—making it Sandler’s highest-grossing movie to date at the time.

Besides being a bona fide box office hit, the film’s two ’80s-heavy soundtracks—which included tunes by The Police, David Bowie, The Psychedelic Furs, New Order, and The Smiths—were also popular. For the film’s 20th anniversary, here are 11 fun facts about The Wedding Singer.

1. THE DIRECTOR’S OWN REAL-LIFE HEARTBREAK ALLOWED HIM TO TAP INTO THE FILM’S EMOTION.

Longtime Sandler friend and collaborator Frank Coraci directed The Wedding Singer, and said that his own experience with having his heart broken was part of what allowed him to tap into the movie’s unique balance of humor and heartfelt romance.

“I remember lying in bed and not being able to move, so it was easy to tap into that pretty quickly,” Coraci told The Hollywood News of his own heartbreak, which happened a couple of years before the movie came along. “I think the distance between those two things was good. It let me look at it differently and allowed it to be funny. I think if had happened before, The Wedding Singer would have been one seriously depressing movie.”

2. THE IDEA TO SET THE FILM IN THE 1980S CAME FROM THE RADIO.

The Wedding Singer was written by Tim Herlihy, a longtime collaborator of Sandler’s who, in addition to writing for Saturday Night Live, wrote the scripts for Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy (among other Sandler-starring films). Sandler mentioned to Herlihy that he wanted to do “a film about a wedding singer who gets left at the altar.” For his part, Herlihy let the radio inspire him. “I was listening to the radio show Lost in the ’80s, and I said, ‘I want to do a movie set in the 1980s. So of course, we thought, ‘Why don’t we do a story about a wedding singer in the 1980s?’”

3. SANDLER WANTED TO MAKE A “PRO-LOVE” FILM.

While promoting the movie on Late Night With Conan O’Brien in 1998, Sandler said, “We wanted to make a romantic comedy that was heavy on the laughs. It was nice to do a movie that was pro-marriage and pro-love.” He explained men have a difficult time falling in love. “You got guys who say they don’t want to be in love, but those are usually guys who have been hurt before.”

4. THE MOVIE DOESN’T FEATURE ANY SEX SCENES, AND THERE’S A REASON FOR THAT.

In the same interview, Conan O’Brien asked Sandler why there weren’t any sex scenes in the film, which seemed odd for a rom-com. Sandler was candid with his answer: “The main reason for not having a sex scene is I’m not good at sex,” he said. “I started when I was pretty young and I was always like, you’ll get better. And I got older and it’s still not good.”

5. BARRYMORE APPROACHED SANDLER ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER.

Since the release of The Wedding Singer, Sandler and Drew Barrymore have gone on to star in 50 First Dates (2004) and Blended (2014) together, but their original collaboration was really the actress’s doing. Barrymore told Howard Stern she was interested in working with Sandler because “[I thought] I want to be a modern weird Hepburn, Tracy old Hollywood couple.” Sandler agreed to meet with her. “We looked like the worst blind date you’ve ever seen,” Barrymore recalled, referencing how she had purple hair and wore a leopard coat. Still, as Barrymore told The Huffington Post, she was convinced that she and Sandler were “cinematic soul mates,” and wasn’t afraid to tell him so. Soon after this meeting, the script for The Wedding Singer came along.

6. THE “RAPPING GRANNY” LIVED TO BE 101.

At the age of 84, Ellen Albertini Dow portrayed Robbie’s neighbor Rosie, a.k.a. “The Rapping Granny.” During a wedding scene in the movie, Rosie gets on stage and raps to The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” However, when the filmmakers asked Dow to perform the rap, she admitted she wasn’t familiar with that style of music.

In a 2008 radio interview, she recounted how Sandler and Coraci approached her with the idea. They told her, “‘We think it might be funny for an older woman to do rap,’” Dow explained. “And I said, ‘What is that?’ I had no idea what rap was. They took me to a soundstage and handed me this rap song. I went in the booth and it was very foreign to me. I said, ‘Can I move a little to it?’ They said, ‘Oh, sure.’ I’m not bragging, but I danced all my life, and I played the piano, so I know music. I started to move to it and I got it right it away. I got it very fast and loved it and had fun with it.” Her rapping success led to her rapping in a Life Savers commercial, and she even considered recording a rap record for children. In 2015, Dow died at the age of 101.

7. IT’S THE FIRST SANDLER FILM TO INCLUDE A FEMALE PERSPECTIVE.

In previous Sandler films, women mainly existed only as love interests. Herlihy, however, changed that with The Wedding Singer. “Drew elevated things for us,” the screenwriter told Esquire. “The scenes with her and Christine [Taylor]—the scenes with her without Adam—[were all great]. You look at the first movies and there’s not a lot without Adam because we did test screening and they said, ‘Get rid of that scene.’ But this time with Drew we were able to do that and have those scenes survive to the movie.”

8. THE CREATORS OF THE WEDDING SINGER BROADWAY MUSICAL KNEW IT WAS “BORN TO SING.”

The success of the film inspired a Broadway musical adaptation that ended up earning five Tony Award nominations and eight Drama Desk Award nods. Matthew Sklar composed the music, and Chad Beguelin wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Herlihy. It premiered in Seattle in January 2006 and then officially opened on Broadway in April 2006.

In the fall of 2007, the musical toured nationally, then eventually landed overseas in London, Abu Dhabi, the Philippines, and Australia. Beguelin said the musical came from him pitching a movie idea to New Line Cinema. “They asked me, ‘What would you do with our catalogue?’ Well, I thought The Wedding Singer was born to sing,” he said. They felt a musical could convey stronger feelings than what was on the screen. “In the movie, you get a close-up of Drew Barrymore looking distraught at her reflection in a wedding dress, but you can’t do that on stage,” Beguelin said. “That’s where you write a song.”

9. BARRYMORE WANTED THE AUDIENCE TO “HOLD THE BOWL OF LOVE.”

In a 1998 interview, Barrymore explained what drew her to the character of Julia: “She has an ease that follows her and that’s the energy that she exudes, and I really, really like that about her. And she’s a happy girl.”

Barrymore further said she wanted people to be happy and for the movie to cause the audience “to hold the bowl of love and have those hearts in their eyes and all of that good mushy stuff we live for."

10. BILLY IDOL STARRED IN THE FILM TO APPEASE HIS SON—AND TEENAGERS.

Billy Idol, whose song “White Wedding” appears on the soundtrack, portrays himself during a climactic scene on a plane. “My son loved Adam Sandler and I thought: ‘I’m going to have to see it anyway, so why not be in it?,’” Idol said. “I gained a number of diehard teenage fans through doing it, who are adults now and are still turning up to my gigs.”

“There’s something about Billy Idol hanging on a plane, knocking back champagne, and getting involved with my love life,” Sandler said of Idol’s cameo. “Everybody thought that’d be fun.”

11. BOY GEORGE WAS A FAN OF BOY GEORGE.

In the film, transgender actress Alexis Arquette played a character named George, who had similarities to the iconic Culture Club frontman Boy George. Wedding Singer George even sings the band’s 1982 hit song “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” at a wedding in the movie. Arquette passed away on September 11, 2016, and around the same time the real Boy George paid homage to the actress at a concert in Maryland. He dedicated “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” to Alexis and her family.

“Alexis played me in The Wedding Singer, very hilariously,” he said. “When I went to [see] The Wedding Singer, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When I saw Alexis doing an impersonation of me, I was rolling around on the floor laughing.”

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