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`RETRO FREAKS’ WAX NOSTALGIC, CASH IN ON ‘50S, ‘60S MEMORIES

SHARE `RETRO FREAKS’ WAX NOSTALGIC, CASH IN ON ‘50S, ‘60S MEMORIES

As Frank Sinatra croons "All the Way" on the jukebox - three songs for a quarter - Tom Askew waxes nostalgic.

"I think the '50s were simpler, a lot more clean. There wasn't so much variety in lifestyle, so much pressure, stress. You felt more comfortable in your surroundings," says Askew, 43, of Costa Mesa, Calif."Today everybody is in transit. Everything is high tech, there's a lot of push."

Askew owns a '62 Corvette, a '57 Chevy and a '56 Buick Roadmaster. He favors Hawaiian shirts. He collects albums by Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and other artists of the '50s and early '60s. He created a '50s-style malt shop in Huntington Beach, Calif., called Be Bop Burgers that he opened two years ago on Jan. 8, Elvis Presley's birthday.

In short, Askew is a retro freak.

Yes, he admits, the cars of today are wonders of technology that get you from A to Z on less gas, but they're nothing like the iron and chrome that rolled on four Firestones down Main Street and the Interstate.

"They're great transportation but they don't have the substance or the style of the cars of the '50s and some of the early '60s. You could actually go to the drive-in and sit in the back seat," he says.

And yes, he says, contemporary artists produce enjoyable music, but overall they're no match for the pure, unforgettable songs of his favorite era.

"There wasn't a lot of obscenity or bad overtones," he says. "You could enjoy the simple lyrics. You could be innocent about it.

"Things happen so fast in the '80s and '90s. Songs are in and out so fast that you can't even remember the name of the song you heard two weeks ago. It's up, in, out, push."

Steve "Butch" Rillera has managed to transform his love of the musical past into present employment.

A drummer who played in the '50s, '60s and '70s with the Righteous Brothers, Dick Dale and other surf and rock 'n' roll bands, he coordinates the musical reviews at the Righteous Brothers' Hop nightclub in Fountain Valley, Calif., along with Bill Medley, the club's owner.

Rillera, 44, says the club shuns remakes and plays only songs by the original artists, which are more likely to evoke nostalgic feelings.

"Back in '57 when you were in a drive-in or wherever and a song came on, that's a memory for you - your first date, your first kiss. When you hear that song, you don't care about the fidelity of the record, it's the memory that's important," says Rillera, who played on such No. 1 hits as "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone and "Chick-A-Boom" by Daddy Dewdrop.

Right now, the club's playlist is limited to songs popular between 1956 and 1969, but more recent hits will be included as the years go by.

"It's going to be interesting when we move into the '70s and get into disco. You'll have people coming in here in white suits a la John Travolta," he says.

Askew, though, can't envision people becoming nostalgic for the late '60s and '70, an era he believes lacks the stability of earlier times.

"I'm not saying that there weren't some good things that came about from the late '60s from a political or social standpoint, it's just that it doesn't have the overall impact of the earlier times," he says.

"You couldn't create a theme restaurant around the sexual revolution or around burning your draft card or around Woodstock."