I genuinely love the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ve always made sure to watch a healthy portion of it each year, and do so especially now that I have a child who is still amazed by enormous floating balloons. The parade is, however, undeniably ridiculous, particularly the float/performance segments that occur throughout the presentation. They seem to originate from some alternate universe where musical tastes evolved and we kept developing pop stars in various media, yet Broadway musicals remained the most popular form of expression and those musicals ramped up the camp factor a good 25 percent.
When I was a kid, I found these interludes so cringe-inducing I’d have to leave the room. “And now, here to sing a number from the revival of ‘Carousel’….” boom, I was gone. The nightmare scenario came when something I kid-loved was featured in one of these segments, because I felt compelled to watch it even though I knew it would be horrifying. For instance, Spider-Man and other super guys from the Marvel Universe fake-punch each other to the tune of “I Need A Hero.”
As an adult, however, I find these things hilarious. And so I’d like to present a Thanksgiving advent calendar of sorts by highlighting many such segments from the days of yore. This inaugural edition comes from the 1984 parade and features a float dedicated to that year’s hottest toy, the Cabbage Patch Kids. Remember when moms almost murdered each other to bring one home for their ungrateful children? That was fun. I’m pretty sure Cabbage Patch Kids were the first toys that people wanted so badly they literally beat the shit out of each other, so naturally they are recalled quite fondly these days.
In this bit, Tim Conway talk-sings about these lovable scamps, although many of his “lyrics” don’t sound remotely flattering. The animation of the Cabbage Patch Kids appears much better than I would think would be possible for the time, but their semi-articulated mouths in the middle of ginormous heads are still horrifying.
Then, some kind of evildoer who sounds kind of like a decrepit Baby Bob emerges, trailed by some other ne’er-do-wells who want to rid the world of Cabbage Patch Kids for typical Bad Guy Reasons. Tim Conway looks more fed up than annoyed by this turn of events. (“Great, now what?”) A Cabbage Patch Kid in an army helmet emerges, and he delivers one swift kick to the rear of the main bad guy, which is plenty to send them packing. It concludes with a fiddle solo from Conway and a few tidy dance moves too because, dammit, that man is a professional. You don’t become a cast member of The Carol Burnett Show for 800 years without being a showman.
But above all, I think my favorite part of this video is the fact that the float is lugged along by an ordinary, unadorned Dodge station wagon. I feel like some manager at Macy’s had to ask a maintenance guy to borrow it. “Hey man, can we ‘steal’ your truck for the weekend? Just need to move some lovable moppets with huge heads and Tim Conway. Don’t worry, we’ll gas ‘er up.”
Following the Cabbage Patch Saga, you can see longtime Broadway staple Kaye Ballard sing “Home for the Holidays,” followed by an appearance by the Raggedy Ann balloon. Upon further reflection, I think I may have been at this parade. One year the whole family went to watch it in person, en route my grandparents’ house in Queens. My littlest brother had a Raggedy Andy doll he carried everywhere at the time, and when he saw this balloon bobbing down Fifth Avenue, he lost it. THEY’RE STEALING MY DOLLY! he howled, even though he was clutching his own doll at the time. Did we ever let him forget this, despite the fact that he was two years old when he said it? What do you think?
Bonus! Here’s a bank of commercials from this broadcast, including an odd Timex ad that I recall, some high quality plastic watches, and a G.I. Joe trucking set (?). I think this last thing is the G.I. Joe equivalent of R.O.B.