It was a Hard Knock Life (for my family)

It’s Oscar night as I’m writing this which has me thinking about movies.

I always hate when people ask me what my favorite movie is; there are way too many favorites for me to name and most have people looking at me like I’m insane (I tend to like older movies and even musicals – THE HORROR). Though, my go to answer is “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I’ve seen it more times than I can count. The first time I saw it, I just happened to go into my mom’s room to chat when she had it on. As I started paying attention to the movie, I said to her that there was no way a woman like Sabrina would fall for Linus. She told me to just watch. I was wrong on so many levels! Sabrina and Linus were made for one another; even my young self could see that! Luckily, (spoiler alert), it all ends as it should. From that day on, Bogart has been one of my old-timey crushes. I can now see how any girl would (should) fall for him.

Opening a girl’s eye to the wonders of Bogart

And if you read my last blog, you know I’m watching any movie with Lou Diamond Phillips, especially “La Bamba”. I scoffed at Jason the other day when he decided to change the channel on it to watch “Rocky 3”. Unacceptable. I stopped the divorce proceedings because “Rocky 3” was almost over. It ended, and I still saw the last half of “La Bamba” for the billionth time. Marriage, it’s all about compromise.

But I bet if you asked my brother what my favorite movie is, he would have a totally different answer other than “Sabrina” or “La Bamba”. My brother would tell you that I love the movie, “Annie”. Yes, the one that came out in 1982. I was 4 and it was everything. I watched it endlessly! My poor brother, who was not interested in it at all, can probably still sing the whole soundtrack and it’s likely he’s not thrilled about that fact.

In my room, I would play the record on my own personal record player constantly. You know the record player I’m talking about, they looked like they were a suitcase. You’d open the latch, lift the cover and there was the single turntable inside. My record player was “Strawberry Shortcake” themed and, you can take my word on this, it was awesome.

Behold! My groovy record player…

By the way, this whole blog is making me feel ancient.

Anyway, I would play each song, singing at the top of my lungs, while trying to replicate what I could remember from the dance routines in the movie. After each number, I would lift the needle (this was the pause mechanism for you young people) and then do my best to act out the storyline. I would only play the part of the orphans; the adults didn’t matter to me. From there, I’d go back to the record player to find the correct spot on the record to start up the next song and do my best to not scratch said record. I repeated this throughout the whole soundtrack.  Look, I never claimed to be a normal child. But, I had an unbelievable imagination (still do) and I was never bored even when I was alone (this still rings true, as well).

A year or 2 later, we got a VCR and my mom did the best thing ever; she rented “Annie” from our local video store which was also a vacuum repair place (don’t ask; I can’t explain it). There was also a convenience store attached to it with the best penny candy, but I digress. I made the most out of that 3-day rental; I must have played that tape 20 times. I would watch it, rewind it, and re-watch it. Even if I was playing a game, “Annie” was on the background. But I would always stop what I was doing to watch the musical numbers; my audience needed me! I had to sing and dance along.

When that rental period was over, I was devastated. I can’t be sure, but I would guess that my parents and my brother were not as upset. Luckily, they made the mistake of bringing me to the video store with them the next time. I have no idea what everyone else picked, but you can ‘bet your bottom dollar’ (get it? It’s a lyric from “Tomorrow”. I’m so disappointed in you non – “Annie” fans) that I wanted to rent “Annie” again. This went on and on for ages. My mother would beg me to pick something else and a few times I would pick some other movie, but it just wasn’t the same.

“Annie” was the only movie I was interested in. If I wasn’t watching it, I was singing it. My favorite song to perform was “Maybe”, the heartbreaking slow jam. I’d sing it anywhere; in my room, outside while roller skating, in the car, while eating dinner. I, honestly, should thank my family for not actually muzzling me.

“Annie” wasn’t just popular with me though; the neighborhood girls all loved it too. I can’t describe how incredible my neighborhood was growing up. Within a 2 block radius, we must have had 10-15 children with ages ranging between mine and my brother’s. It was one of those places where you’d be outside, within range of your mother’s voice to call out for you, until sundown. The girls across the street, who were a little older, would often want to create plays in their backyard and we always voted to perform “Annie”. It was a big to-do. We’d make sets and costumes, audition for parts, etc. I never wanted to be “Annie” which was good because I never was. I was always cast as Molly, the youngest orphan. Figures, since I was the youngest girl in the neighborhood. Type casting is no joke, people! My dream was to be the orphan who always said “Oh my goodness” to everything. I can still do a perfect imitation of the actress saying that line. I do it often, but no one gets my reference. It’s tough being this cool…


As you can probably guess, everyone’s parents were the audience for these performances. Looking back, I feel bad for all them, but especially for my poor mom. Let’s really all have some sympathy for my mother; she had to live through my obsession with “Annie” at almost all times and now she had to watch this neighborhood performance constantly over her Summer that year. She had no break from it. Yet, she smiled the whole time. She helped to make those costumes and never showed any sign that it annoyed her. I was under the impression she was just as obsessed as I was. Who wouldn’t be, right?

This obsession went on for, at least, a year. We rented that movie so much, we could have probably bought it 10 times over. My parents tried twice to buy me my own copy of the movie. Both times, it broke. The first 1 never played correctly. The second 1 stopped working within a week. I guess there’s a chance that I played it to death within the week. Anything is possible.

I, eventually, replaced my “Annie” obsession, but it never really went away.

As an adult, I do still enjoy it. I have the record, the cd, and the movie. They’re all put away on their shelves; never really taken out, but it’s comforting to know they’re there. I probably only watch the movie now if I catch it when flipping through TV channels.
When I watch it now, I’m brought back to that little girl who sang “Maybe” at the top of her lungs with no worry about whether or not I sounded ok (I didn’t). And while as a child, I hated Miss Hannigan, I can now appreciate how Carol Burnett just owned that part! We should really all bow down to her.

I do, however, have to admit that my favorite “Annie” memory is a recent one; my mom and I attended the theatre production of it together a few years back. It felt right to share that with her. I’m positive it will be something we always remember. Besides, let’s just acknowledge that she’s the only family member who would willingly go with me.

So yes, “Annie” is still on my list of favorite movies and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Sometimes movies are so much more to you than just a film; this one is a definite part of me. I’m thinking about throwing the movie soundtrack onto my iPod now; this week will have one epic “Annie” singalong going on in my car. My brother will be thankful he’s in another state for that, but I do wonder if my mom would join in? I’ll let you know how fabulous our duet to “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” is…

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