Page 2 of 5
To visit the home of Clay and April Croker in their quiet DeKalb subdivision is to step through a wormhole straight into a 1950s America that probably existed only in our revisionist imaginations. The living/dining room is a set decorator's wet dream: a console phonograph with built-in bar; a long, low couch with a tubular backrest; a complete turquoise-and-white dinette set; a cabinet from a vintage TV outfitted with a working picture tube; shadowboxes apparently dueling for the title of most outrageous; and pseudo-cubist artwork so far out of style it almost looks modern again. Almost.
Nearly every corner of the Crokers' ranch house has undergone a thorough retrofitting. The bathroom walls are spatter-painted to resemble vintage Formica; every scrap of drapery features a wrongheaded abstract pattern that would make Martha Stewart weep; wrapped in a straw mat, the rumpus room wet bar is a Polynesian oasis; numerous posters tout such schlock-horror films as 1956's The She-Creature ("Hypnotized! Reincarnated as a monster from hell!").
And the couple's new puppy? Named Tiki, it's -- what else? -- a toy poodle. "She completes our '50s motif," explains 40-year-old Clay Croker, half-smiling, perhaps wondering if their obsessiveness seems pathological to outsiders.
Croker, a Cartoon Network animator, fell under the thrall of mid-century kitsch about 15 years ago when he stumbled on a picture book about '50s style.
"As an animator, I'd rather draw a wacky '50s couch than some boring contemporary couch, and we just decided to furnish the house that way," he explains. "I grew up in a home with an early American decorating scheme, which I hated. It's like the kid whose parents wouldn't let him have a motorcycle, so he goes off to become a biker."
So dedicated is Croker to his chosen era that he constructed an intricate shrine to the drive-in theater in a corner of his basement. He also tricked out his back deck with functioning drive-in speakers so he can show movies on a screen hanging between two trees. The commanding, 8-foot highway sign for the old I-85 Drive-in is bolted to the back of the house, where it doubtless holds the same fascination for B-movie hounds as a chunk of the True Cross would for the faithful.
When the nearby drive-in was being dismantled a couple of years ago, the Crokers visited the construction site nearly every day to see what kitschy cast-offs they could salvage. Clay recalls holding a large hunk of concrete and peering through the full-length glass door of the old-school concessions stand inside. It had been abandoned in such haste that the candy signs, hot-dog machine and other vintage trimmings still sat untouched, a veritable time-capsule of Cold War-era nostalgia within reach. Squelching the desire to smash and grab, he dropped the concrete and went home. Returning the next day, he found the entire building and its trove of classic contents had been plowed under by a bulldozer.
Pesky things, personal ethics.
Dan and Lora Kohler have invested a sizable share of the last eight years and a disturbing portion of their disposal incomes trolling antique stores and the Internet for funky housewares. For Lora, kitsch is a matter of personal style that runs in the family. "In the '70s, my parents were into Danish Modern furniture and bright, melamine Heller dinnerware, so they were pretty hip," she says.
The Kohlers' Poncey-Highlands studio apartment, however, is stocked with items that likely would give even her once-mod parents pause. From the deep-pile shag rugs to the double-boomerang coffee table, from the table lamp fashioned of heavily shellacked driftwood festooned with plastic leaves to the vintage ephemera lining virtually every horizontal surface, there's scarcely an inch of the Kohler crib that doesn't reek of kitsch or retro-chic.
"Once you have the furniture, you've got to have the accessories," says Lora, an engineer. Among her prized possessions is an enviable collection of swag lamps composed of colorful spaghetti-string plastic and a near-complete set of the highly sought-after "Starburst" pattern dinnerware from the mid-'50s.
"Collecting Starburst is my one big indulgence," she confesses. "But it's something people at work just wouldn't understand because it's not what you'd think of as fine china."
Scattered throughout the apartment are several distinct collections of rather random stuff: an army of small plastic creatures Dan explains were the prizes from boxes of the nearly forgotten '70s cereal Freakies; various souvenirs featuring the fruit-headed "Florida Orange Bird"; assorted figurines and models of green-skinned hot-rodder Rat Fink; and a bathroom decorated completely in Charlie Tuna memorabilia.
If the cartoon rodent is arguably Dan's counter-culture hero, then the beret-wearing Starkist shill with the unexplained death wish is definitely Lora's. And the best part is, there's negligible competition from other collectors to drive up the price of cardboard displays, Frisbees and toys bearing his image. Sorry, Charlie.
The fallacy of the low crime "per capita" is exactly that it considers the tens…
More diversionary bs by Cobb County officials.... that email did NOT insult residents, it spoke…
It's not an "honest debate" over gun rights but simply submission. Most Americans do not…
Damn Imperial Storm Troopers can't hit anything (type of joke made by the type of…
A person has all the rights to do whatever they would want to in their…