A couple years ago I was strolling through the poorest neighborhood in Canada and wandered into an old drug store called The Garlane. It had certainly seen better days. No longer was it the local stop for toilet paper and cigarettes, but instead remained open primarily to dispense methadone. Since this paradigm shift in priorities, much of the store's old stock has remained on the shelves untouched. 1970s board games still shrink-wrapped, greeting cards from the early sixties, and all-manner of forgotten product just sitting there, waiting to be discovered by greedy ebay dealers. It was at this store that I came across a box filled with cassette tapes in flamboyant packaging covered in gritty soot an inch thick. Staring back at me were the faces of several fading celebrities; Ed McMahon, Dom DeLuise, Don Adams, Danny Thomas, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Scatman Crothers just to name a few.
What I had discovered was a case of tapes titled Greetings From the Stars, packaged in flimsy cardboard and decorated with airbrushed renderings of celebrity heads all sporting bow ties. The covers each shouted a different theme like Happy Birthday, Cheer Up, Getting Married, Happy Anniversary or What is Love? As described on the packaging, these cassettes were "HUMOROUS RECORDED GREETINGS JUST FOR YOU - reverse side blank for your personal message." With three stars assigned to each tape, and a 1984 price of a dollar each, I naturally lugged a dirty box of these home with me that day.
When I finally listened to these tapes and inspected their packaging I became more and more intrigued. The tapes seem to have been recorded quickly and in one take. A dog starts barking in the middle of Zsa Zsa Gabor's Happy Anniversary salutation, spit gurgles in Milton Berle's throat as he laughs at his own jokes, and Ed McMahon shoots out a labored routine with both speed and apathy. Scatman Crothers appears on a "Cheer Up!" tape in which he, Shari Lewis and Foster Brooks all attempt to cure your depression with their flippant remarks. Crothers doesn't even bother, stating that he doesn't have time to cheer you up because "...I've got problems of my own!"
The top half of the cardboard cover is designed so it can be folded backwards and taped down. The back has a space for an address and postage - a self-contained envelope - ready to be sent to your friend who is recently engaged or suicidal. Each of the tapes has a 1984 copyright from "Pezzaz Productions Inc. A wholly owned subsidiary of PEZAMERICA RESOURCES CORPORATION 550 Cambie St., Vancouver, Canada."
The story behind these tapes has not been particularly easy to come by. Elaborate internet searches have produced limited information. These tapes, despite the Hollywood names involved, were produced and manufactured in Vancouver. 550 Cambie Street is now a decrepit old building with no windows and currently houses "The Government of British Columbia - Ministry of Children and Family Development." Pezzaz Productions existed, apparently, for only a short time - Greetings From the Stars seemingly the only thing they ever produced. Pezamerica Resources Corporation did not have a stake in Pez dispensers as you might guess (as I did), but was actually a company owned by Murray Pezim (pictured on the right). Pezim was one of the wealthiest mining magnets on earth and his suspect PRC was primarily involved with gold mines in Arizona and Canada when not dealing with prerecorded celebrity felicitations. Like many the billionaire, he involved himself in various unrelated projects just because he could, things like owning a football team, promoting Muhammad Ali fights, and best of all ... Greetings From the Stars.
Of course I wouldn't spout off about Greetings From the Stars without providing you with some audio examples. I've posted several of them on this edition of the Generation Exploitation Podcast. You will hear from Milton Berle, Don Adams, Jonathan Winters, Phyllis Diller, Lynn Redgrave, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, Doc Severinsen, and my mistaken claim that the PEZ company put them together. So cheer up... and happy anniversary!