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Encyclopedia of Bad Taste Hardcover – November, 1990

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lava lamps, Hawaiian shirts, accordion music and outlandish performer Charo are among the kitschy or lowbrow people, places and things affectionately featured in this entertaining, colorful reference book. Illustrated. $50,000 ad/promo. (Oct.)no PW rev
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pop culture mavens and authors of 15 books, including Elvis World ( LJ 10/1/87) and Sixties People ( LJ 1/90), the Sterns have assembled a directory of American "ersatz culture" that would make Roseanne Barr proud. Their goal is, "to catalogue bad taste, define the standard masterworks, and inaugurate the annals of the world's favorite faux pas." With entries running the gamut from Chippendale dancers, Tammy Faye Bakker, and the jogging suit to Jello, nose jobs, and tattoos, the result is a somewhat humorous and whimsical volume that celebrates lowbrow culture more than berates it. This encyclopedia offers trivial information aplenty, most of it from secondary sources: the origins of bowling, the invention of the Lava Lite. It might make a good gift item, but as a library reference purchase it is not recommended. Perhaps for pop culture or humor collections.
- David Nudo, New York
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (November 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060164700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060164706
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.2 x 10.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Strife of Love in a Dream VINE VOICE on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Witty and sharp-tongued, this book guides readers in a primer of that which was bizarre and tasteless in the 70s and 80s. Topics range from "Frederick's of Hollywood" to Jell-O [tm] to Chippendale's Dancers to those obnoxious cedar plaques you used to be able to find at truck stops across the country (and maybe still can, somewhere). Some of these topics will be totally lost on younger readers -- my 25-year-old boyfriend had never heard of the Mayflower Madame, never knew the glory of ring-pull caps, and had never seen a macrame plant hanger. For me, however, a child of the 80s, these are just part of the general background of my life.
Some topics are strangely absent (where was the section on raccoon-style eyeliner? Where were edible underwear, slogan-bearing buttons, and Love's Baby Soft perfume?), and others are explored in far more depth than might be strictly necessary (Charo is a prime example -- she just never blipped my radar like fish sticks did, I guess).
I loved it, though. It's a good source of laughs. Actually, it made me feel a bit nostalgic. I'm making Jell-O tonight.
Warning: There is some strong language in this book, including a few examples of the F-word. There are also some R-rated pictures in it. Also, it really pokes fun at people named Tiffany. I wasn't offended, but I thought I'd mention it in case someone else wanted to avoid such things.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many are dated and may be unknown to Millenials, example, they might not know who Charo was and how her bad singing was on every prime time variety show. What struck me was how many if these entries are back with a fury. Nail art! It's an entry in the book. I can't escape tacky trashy nail art, indeed it seems to be worse today than when this book was published. Hamburger Helper has more varieties than ever. Worth a look if you get it cheap.
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Format: Paperback
The Sterns, best known for their books about vernacular American cusine, dug their claws into pop culture in this book full of short (1-3 page) essays about topics as diverse as Death Cars, Fish Sticks, and Florida's Fountainblu hotel.
The tone is generally mocking, sometime excessively so (some of the phenomena the Sterns spear are not so much in bad taste, but merely goofy), but the pieces are almost always informative and entertaining.
Out of print? What a shame. But come to think of it, this book could use an entirely new edition, with the Bad Taste items of the 1990s worked in and a few obscure items (Boudoir photos) expunged.
The entry on Las Vegas, which has outdone itself in recent years, could be expanded into a book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OH MAN do I love this book. It's such a huge catalog of kitsch that's both really comprehensive and written tongue-in-cheek so you can laugh at it while you learn about macrame. Be careful getting it for younger kitsch lovers, though, there's some bare boobies!
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Format: Hardcover
Of course, I'm sure it's occurred to the authors that perhaps the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste could be included IN THE Encyclopedia of Bad Taste! After all, it's something that's fun but best not taken too seriously.

Regardless of the above comment, I did find the book informative again and again. But just one thing: Come on now, recliners are bad taste? Say what?! Really, is there an alternative?
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Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book. if you are mid 30's to mid 50's, this book's for you. I bought it in 1990- laughed out loud MANY times---I still read parts of it today, although the cover has come off! It has short articles on some of our nations funnier, and awfull-er things, from accordians to zoot suits- with stops at dino parks, liberace,diners, & fake fur, to name but a few. Reading it now, some things are definitely dated, and I would LOVE to see an updated edition ( hint hint, jane & micheal stern). All in all a fun, fast read, blast from the past for all of us to laugh at ourselves, and recognize someone we knew. and remember,"just because something is in bad taste, doesnt mean it has to taste bad."( the sterns, on cool-whip)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book holds up well after 20 years, but I'd love to see an update. Since 1992 we've had infomercials, reality TV, etc. Come on, how about a 25 year anniversary edition?
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Format: Paperback
What a great book - you can peruse this one and find forgotten things that you secretly love, secretly loathe, along with any number of things that simply cause you to think "what the hell?!?"

Digging into the proletarian underbelly of what could broadly be described as 'Americana,' the Sterns wallow around in a world of bikers, jello, spam, bad t-shirts, large-breasted pin-ups, disco, Nehru jackets, faux-Hawaiiana (Tiki Torches!), Winnebago warriors and assorted other things that make this country great and icky.

You just have to hold your nose and dive in - of course there's an elitism here, but even the trashiest people I know are usually aware of their own trashiness, and revel in it as often as not: I could claim with some arrogance to be a cultured person, having read Kafka and Borges and having sat through both operas and 'performance art' spectacles, but I also do recall having hanging macrame and driftwood sculptures in my childhood home, and I LOVED seeing those things in here.

Some conspicuous absences: Martin Denny (get to know Martin Denny - you'll thank me), Southern Rock, the entire state of Florida, blaxploitation films (actually, any -xploitation films), slasher movies, neo-folk music and Valley Girls. Vegas is here; we also need its' siblings - Atlantic City, Myrtle Beach and Orlando! Please, let's have an update!

-David Alston
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