Entry 617: A Splash from the Past

My recent post about buying a mattress reminded me of the bed I had in the early 80’s.

I was single and living in Manhattan and decided, in a moment of complete insanity, that I wanted a waterbed. Remember those? They were very popular back in the days when people used a lot of drugs and hallucinated that emulating the experience of sleeping at sea during a storm was a good idea.

I may have wanted one because, when I was a young copywriter working in San Diego, our sdreader-19780126_page_11ad agency’s biggest client was Beau Gentry’s Waterbeds. (The ad at right is the only evidence I can find online that the stores ever existed.*) I can still remember their jingle, some 40 years later. The music was western-sounding, as if it had been lifted from a Marlboro commercial, and the lyrics began “Beau Gentry’s…is waterbed country.”

Like Marlboro country, but for waterbeds. Not that our agency stole stuff or anything.

(As an aside, we were, perhaps, the only ad agency in history that actually shot one of our clients.  This is one of the most popular fantasies for ad agency people, but we really did it! With a real gun! He was a local car dealer, and his line was “I’ll do anything to make you a deal,” so we’d film him saying his line and then have him jump out of a plane, or have a golfer drive a ball off his forehead, or put him in one of those shark cages and throw him off a boat. Then the head of our agency got the idea to hire a marksman to shoot the poor guy. So we put him in a bulletproof vest, and we set up the cameras and mics, and we told our client it would be a pretty good idea to get this right in one take, and he said “I’ll do anything to make you a deal” and we cued the marksman who had a rifle with one of those high-tech sights on it and he fired and hit the car dealer right in the vest and knocked him back about three feet and he had a bruise on his chest for weeks afterward and it was only after the commercial aired that someone said, “Couldn’t we have used blanks?”)

Where was I?

Right. Waterbeds. So I was this kid copywriter coming up with radio commercials for Beau Gentry’s Waterbeds and, even though I only worked at this agency for about eight months, I must have subliminally sold myself on the idea of a floppy, sloshy bed because a couple of years later I decided to buy one, even though I was then living in a location that was not ideal for a waterbed, that being a Manhattan apartment that was not on the ground floor.

6664649291_725f4133031I don’t remember where in Manhattan I could have gone to make such a purchase, but I do remember very clearly what I had to do two years later to get rid of the thing.

I had to get rid of it because I had met my future wife who had some minor objections to the waterbed. For instance, she objected to the fact that if she was in it, and then I got in it, she would immediately be out of it due to water displacement or some such thing.

Also, she thought the whole concept was icky.

In case you’ve never given any thought to how you would dispose of a waterbed, you need to know that you can’t do it with the water still in it, because it weighs about as much as a damp hippopotamus (which is one reason why they were not recommended for non-ground-floor residences, a second reason being the desired safety and dryness of the downstairs neighbor).

So the first thing I had to do was go out and purchase a length of hose that would reach from my bed to my bathroom. Then I had to connect one end of the hose to the waterbed valve and insert the other end in my mouth. Then I had to suck really hard.

This was to create a vacuum, just like people used to do during the gas shortage of 1973 ap7306010161_custom-915b61b3f136d185eaefb86698a87edcd9536520-s900-c851when they needed to “borrow” some fuel from another car. So I sucked hard, then quickly put my end of the hose into the bathtub. And, much to my surprise, it actually worked! Water started pouring out of the hose. This was going to be simple!

Except it turns out this method is only good for getting roughly half the water out of a waterbed. So I was left with a somewhat deflated, but still heavy and unwieldy mattress sitting forlornly in its frame.

I began trying to wrestle the thing out of the frame, which is not as easy as you might think, because of this propensity of water to resist going upward. No matter which part of the mattress I pulled out, the water stayed down in the part that was in the frame. The water was really pissing me off.

Then I got the bright idea to get into the frame myself and push up, not even thinking that a possible result of this action might be that the mattress would end up on top of me, and I would be suffocated by my own waterbed, and nobody would even find my body until the landlord came to clean out the apartment and found my shriveled remains in the bed frame beneath the waterbed mattress and think, “God, what an idiot!”

That didn’t happen, though. I did push it out. And I dragged it into the bathroom. Andshower then I had to repeat the whole process in reverse to get it into the bathtub. When that was accomplished, I realized that the valve had ended up on the bottom, so I was left with no choice but go into the kitchen, fetch a knife, and stab my bed maniacally like Anthony Perkins in the shower scene in Psycho.

When it was over, like Anthony Perkins, I was very wet. And the flaccid mattress lay in the bathtub looking exactly like a murder victim, except made of some grayish, rubbery, watery substance.

And here’s the thing: it was still too large and clumsy (and moist!) for me to drag it down the hall to the elevator.

So I did what any second-floor Manhattan apartment dweller would do. Fortunately, my window overlooked a very untrafficked side street.

See you soon.

*In my Google search for Beau Gentry’s, I discovered this 2013 obituary for a fellow named Michael George Sagar, who was one of the original owners of the stores.  Perhaps not surprisingly, he was also a plumber.  According to this, his ashes were scattered in the Colorado River, so I guess he believed right to the end (and beyond) that “resting” and “water” went together.

 sagar
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4 Responses to Entry 617: A Splash from the Past

  1. Debi Norton says:

    Hi! We came across your blog via Google since my boss wants me to find a way to sell her Beau Gentry water bed (still in excellent condition!). She’s a native San Diegan and purchased the bed back in 1978. I know it’s a bit of stretch, but if you happen to know anyone in the San Diego area or surrounding So Cal areas that would be interested, here’s my direct email: debi@mcgrathdev.com.

    Thanks and I love your blog. 🙂

    • markhal says:

      Debi-Well your boss would certainly be a good testimonial for Beau Gentry’s if they were still around. A 40-year old waterbed. Wow. Unfortunately, I’m in Connecticut now, and I don’t know anyone in your area…or really anyone young enough to want one. Thanks for reading, though.

  2. Christina Rumbaugh says:

    They shot a commercial for Beau Gentry’s at Poway Stables in 1979? Some of the guys that worked at the stables & horses (including my own) were in the commercial.

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