Monday, September 11, 2006


I’ll never forget when Furry Joe entered my life. Although the exact date escapes me, I’m pretty sure it was a sunny Saturday morning in September of 1970. I was watching the usual cartoon fare (Scooby Doo or Aquaman or some such stuff), when a commercial came on for G.I. Joe. Only this was no G.I. Joe that I had ever seen before. He wasn’t all clean shaven with a smooth, short hairdo, looking like all the dads in my neighborhood. He had bristly real hair AND A BEARD. Whoa! He looked like those cool guys that hung out at the head shop my brother frequented for black light posters and incense. Instead of boring dog tags, he sported a big, round medallion around his neck with the letters “A” and “T” formed into something that looked vaguely like a peace sign. I soon learned that this stood for “Adventure Team” and this mod looking Joe was the Land Adventurer. You could tell he was the Land Adventurer because he was running through overgrown grass that resembled a jungle and fighting with a rubber gorilla.

I can’t truly express in words how much this new G.I. Joe image captured my imagination. As much as I loved the original G.I. Joe, there was something about the armed services that I knew I would never quite grasp. They had lots of rules and a hierarchy that I couldn’t fathom at six years old. And from the way my dad talked about his Army days, it didn’t seem like all that much fun. But now we had the “Adventure Team,” a vaguely defined organization made up of Land Adventurers, Sea Adventurers, and Air Adventurers. They could go anywhere and do anything. They didn’t fight in wars; they flew to the tops of burning buildings to save people, searched for sunken treasure, and battled wild animals in far off jungles. He could do anything and be anyone I wanted him to be. I had to possess this new G.I. Joe.

That afternoon, my friends and I played with our old G.I. Joes while breathlessly talking about this new G. I. Joe we saw on t.v. We were all determined to pester the hell out of our parents so that we would have Furry Joes on Christmas Day. Not all my friends were lucky. One friend, Dave, got a Land Adventurer, but I got the Big Kahuna: Talking Adventure Team Commander. I didn’t even know he existed, but my parents had found him. Although I was put off by the circle of bullet holes in his chest, I was more than compensated by the utterances that emitted from the holes when I pulled the string in the back of his neck. Statements like, “Geronimo!” and “I’ve got a tough assignment for you!” sent waves of excitement through my little body.

Although I had the superior Joe, Dave had the coveted “Secret Mission to Spy Island” set, complete with the black outfit, inflatable raft, detonator, and cool looking grease gun. My parents eventually broke down and got me that set, but only after I had fantasized a million ways of stealing Dave’s beautiful set away from him. By the time I got my own, the excitement had died off.

The following Christmas, I got The Search for the Stolen Idol playset, complete with the big yellow helicopter, a rubber cobra, and golden idol. I also received some other costume sets. Furry Joe and the Adventure Team remained a favorite for several years, but there were new men of action waiting in the wings to dethrone my hero.

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