Recently, I have been mourning the loss of this very handsome man, George Herbert Walker Bush. Former President George HW Bush passed away on November 30th of 2018. For those who do not know, George HW Bush was President during my favorite years of the 20th century (1989-1992). George HW Bush as President and Dan Quayle as Vice President were an unforgettable team. How can anyone forget Dan Quayle's misspelling of potato with an "e" at the end or beacon with a "k"?
The years 1989 to 1992 were the best years to be a child. I remember girls trying to wear their hair like Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years. Everyone going gaga over the song George HW Bush used for his presidential campaign song, "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin. Roger Rabbit appearing in short movies before Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Dick Tracy. Boys and girls obsessing over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a lot of patriotism for the US while Bush was in office (especially during The Gulf War). Mike Myers and Dana Carvey made us all want to be Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar [the Wayne's World caps were not available in stores until 1992]. Michael Keaton was Batman. We stayed up in the summer hours to watch The Arsenio Hall Show and woke up on Saturday mornings to watch Garfield and Friends.
In this article, I will be discussing all of the things that made the George HW Bush-era special to me. Everything from snacks to movies will be covered here. I'm a shellhead (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan), so there will be a section dedicated to all things Turtles as well. This article should do a good job of taking those of us who were alive then back to those days. Love them or hate them, the HW Bush era days definitely have a stake in the historical timeline of the world.
Clothes in the HW Bush Era
Where do I start?! The Guess Jeans versus Levi 501 Jeans versus Bugle Boy Jeans wars?! The cool kids wore expensive designer clothes from mall stores (Merry Go Round and Chess King) like Z. Cavaricci pleated pants and I.O.U. sweatshirts. Skaters in their Stussy shirts, Gotcha shirts, Rude Dog shirts, and Vision Skate Wear shirts looked aesthetically different from the surfers in their Quiksilver, Billabong, Rusty, and Body Glove shirts. B.U.M Equipment, PEPE Jeans, and BONGO Jeans were a hit with preppies (a person resembling a student from a prep school).
We loved comfortable clothes in the HW Bush era. Muscle pants and Skidz plaid pants had a lot of room for our legs and it was made of good material. Our shirts, shorts, and hip pouches (fanny packs, if you will) had flashy neon colors and black shades. Vests with gaudy designs and Cosby cardigan sweaters were worn by mainly young adults and adults from '89 into the early 90s. This was the time of N.W.A. (Niggas With Attitude), so black was the new black in those days. People wore black baseball caps, black tanktops, black blazers, black t-shirts, black pocket shirts, black acid wash jeans, black jeans, and black turtlenecks. It's rather hard to forget this era when it comes to clothing.
Music in the HW Bush Era
The Bush-era was one of the most diverse times for music in the 20th century. There were pop acts such as New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul, Tiffany, Roxette, and Debbie Gibson. Dance-rock music from Milli Vanilli and the Milli Vanilli soundalikes (Linear, Calloway, and Living Colour). Hair metal artists were cranking out power ballads along the lines of "Heaven" from Warrant (the Cherry Pie guys). Pop-rap was strong in the Bush-era from the likes of Kwame and The New Beginning, Digital Underground, Kid N Play, MC Hammer, and Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Hardcore rap fans were trashing that brand of rap for political rap (i.e.-Public Enemy, De La Soul, Geto Boys, and Tribe Called Quest). New Jack Swing artists (Al B. Sure!, Guy, Karyn White, and Keith Sweat) were played on the same radio stations as blue-eyed soul artists (Michael Bolton, Grayson Hughes, Marc Cohn, and Lisa Stansfield). Grunge music (think Nirvana) took over more towards the end of this period.
Soundtrack songs that Xennials Know
Unlike some of today's soundtrack songs, many of the singles from the soundtracks of the Bush 41-era were earworms that Xennials sing along to in this present day. Prince (may he rest in peace) was the first artist of this era to add his style to the Batman universe with Batdance [Batman...Batman...Batdance]. Then, Bobby Brown teamed up with L.A.Face (L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds) to bring us On Our Own with great unforgettable lyrics like, "Too hot to handle, too cold to hold They're the Ghostbusters and they're in control". The first two films of the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trilogy, on the other hand, had some timeless foot-tapping tunes like Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme and Ninja Rap by Vanilla Ice. My favorite out of the bunch was Addams Groove from Hammer (remember when he dropped the emcee from his name). Addams Groove was a very laid back jingle for its time. The least appreciated soundtrack song from the Bush Sr.-era was Kid Power by Will Roc on the 3 Ninjas soundtrack (perhaps it came out too late in this period). I love all of these songs because they are fun to listen to from time to time.
Anthropomorphism, Mutants, and Aliens of the HW Bush Era
There were quite a few obscure toy lines that came out during the Reagan 80s and left shelves in the Bush 90s-Army Ants by Hasbro was one of them. Hasbro gave boys the opportunity to pit Blue ant men (led by General Mc-Anther) against Orange ant men (ran by General Patant). Mattel's Food Fighters from early 1989 gave young men the same option but with the Kitchen Commandos (headed by Burgerdier General, a cheeseburger with a glob of ketchup) and the Refrigerator Rejects (commanded by Mean Weener, a mustard dog with his tongue out)[Halloween costumes exist despite there never being a cartoon for Food Fighters]. This theme of good armies versus bad armies bled into the 1990s with Barnyard Commandos by Playmates Toys (the team responsible for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures). Toymakers tried a different approach to achieve the Boo Koo bucks that Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman (creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) made in the year 1990. There was a Disney afternoon programming block duck that was a combination of Batman and the Turtles (Darkwing Duck), mutant avengers (Toxic Crusaders), a space bunny that resembled Jaxxon from the Marvel Star Wars comics (Bucky O' Hare), an intergalactic ninja that was an alien (Zen), and alien fighters in supersonic shells (Snaliens). The heroes in a half shell (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) were the bonafide superheroes of the HW Bush era.
Of course, after Turtlemania '90, many dollar stores were flooded with knock-off toys of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The best attempt at ripping off the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line was the Heroes of the World Fighters (10 figures modeled after the good guys of the first basic wave of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures and a few Dungeons and Dragons villains from the 1983 LJN toy line). Ninja Hero Fighters (pirate frog heroes who rode horses and skateboards) were completely out of scale with both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures and Heroes of the World Fighters. The Turly-Gang was like a cross between Stone Protectors (a late addition to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoff world) and The Evil Warriors from Masters of the Universe. Turtle Warrior City Hero, Karate Turtles Warriors, and Turtles Fighters all had molds that were similar to that of the Playmates Toys Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. Some of the choices for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knock-offs were weird like the Amicable Herculean (a cool ninja turtle with human arms) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Gun (since when did the ninja turtles use guns). The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clip-on toys were the greatest set out of all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle knock-off toys.
It goes without saying that the HW Bush era was the greatest moment in history thus far to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. The turtles were in every store during this time, including the grocery stores. First came Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal in early 1989 which tasted like sweet Chex cereal with marshmallows in it. Then, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cookies by Delicious (Peanut Butter Graham, Apple Cinnamon Graham, Natural Vanilla, and Chocolate Chip) came along and gave Nabisco Teddy Grahams some competition. Farley's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fruit Snacks were introduced in the earliest months of 1990 and those were the first fruit snacks I wanted to keep as collectibles. Bite-size Cheddar Cheese Snack Crackers were released in the fall of that year and they packed more cheese in them than the average Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers. My favorite after school snack in the fall of 1991 was Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pudding Pies (each pie was filled with "Vanilla Puddin' Power"), but they got a bit sloppy at times. The Pizza Crunchabungas were the ultimate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles snack. Sadly, the Pizza Crunchabungas hit around the same time the much superior Combos Stuffed Snacks and Keebler Pizzarias were in bodegas.
Here are some of my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise from the HW Bush era:
- TMNT sun visor hat (early 1990)
- Boxer shorts (early 1990)
- F.H.E. videocassette (late 1989)
- Floating Soap Dish (early 1991)
- Talking Turtle Watch (late 1991)
- Rollerblades (early 1990)
- Thermos Fishin' Kit (late 1990/early 1991)
- The Official TMNT Treasury (early 1991)
- Great Big Button (late 1989/early 1990)
Toys in the Department Store Aisles
While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nintendo consoles were taking over the toy stores, there were a lot of great gender-specific toys for boys and girls. Character toys were the action figures of the 1990s. There was Robocop and the Ultra Police, Police Academy, Beetlejuice, The Dark Knight Collection, The Real Ghostbusters (post-Ghostbusters 2 years), and Beetlejuice figures on the same aisle shelves as the new He-Man and C.O.P.S. Mattel never sold as many Lil Miss dolls as they did Barbie dolls during the 30th Anniversary of Barbie, but the Lil Miss dolls were one of the quintessential dolls from that time. Boys had Micro Machines and girls loved Polly Pocket. It seems like this era is most memorable for the boys' toys like the Kenner Starting Lineup figures (perfect for guys who collected baseball cards), Tyco Fast Traxx, the Crossfire board game, and the Domino Rally series, but unisex toys were quite popular as well. We rubbed Kooshkins and Kooshballs against our arms because it felt good and took out our Nintendo Game Boys whenever we could (hey, that rhymes). Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and Nintendo systems stand out as the definitive toys of the time.
Movies of the 1st Bush Era
1989 and the Bush 90s were not the 60s and 70s for movies, but the filmmakers of that time had their stake in movie-making history. My favorite movies from the Bush 1.0 era to return to are the sequels to the mid 80s movies like Back to the Future Part 2 (not into westerns, so I skipped Part 3), Gremlins 2 The New Batch, and Terminator 2 Judgement Day. The films everyone knows from the Bush Sr. era are the ones with the modern Disney princesses (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin) that blew the Don Bluth selection out of the pool. Spike Lee touched on race relations with the movies Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X. Women were rushing to theaters to see Julia Roberts and Kevin Costner films in the same way teenage girls watched anything with Christian Slater in it. Boys enjoyed the superhero films Batman, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, and Batman Returns, while their fathers were watching every move that Steven Seagal made in his action flicks. The child star that moviegoers rooted for was Macaulay Culkin.
Foods of the HW Bush Era
Mall culture was everything to us in the Bush the Elder days. Families and teens would hang out at Taco Bell for the 49 cent tacos and then grab a frozen yogurt from Baskin Robbins or a cinnamon bun on a Saturday. Cinnamon buns were popular enough from the late 80s into the early 90s that Kellogg’s released Cinnamon Mini Buns Cereal in 1991. Yuppies' preferences were different from everyone else’s. Young urban professionals ate raw sushi from upscale Japanese restaurants. Baby Boomers who could not afford that picked up frozen dinners for their whole family. Microwaveable foods (Micro Magic burgers, fries, and milkshakes) became snacks for children after school, once they got home, as more families picked up microwaves from department stores. Unfortunately, not many food lovers remember this era.
TV land was more alive than ever in the Bush Sr. years. We got a few good laughs out of the show about nothing (Seinfeld). We watched how the show Family Matters went from being about the Winslow family to being The Steve Urkel Show. Then, we woke up the next day and listened to the ridiculous things Zachary Morris did for the love of Kelly Kapowski. Of course, that was after tuning in for Captain N The Gamemaster (I would not want to be stuck in an NES game). We waited to see whose body Sam Beckett would leap into next on Wednesday nights. Doogie Howser MD was absurd to adults and Major Dad was one of the only sitcoms that were set at a military base. Children of this era wanted the American Gladiators or somebody to stop that pun making Cryptkeeper on HBO that our fathers could not get enough of. All in all, the Bush-era was one of the last great bastions of hope for TV watchers before the internet took over completely in the Clinton 90s.
Why Don't More People Like/Remember the Bush 1.0 Era?
Sadly, not everyone is a fan of the Bush Sr. years. The Reagan 80s overshadowed the 'flat' Bush the Elder years for many Baby Boomers, Gen Joneses, and Gen Xers (it was the age of excess). The Clinton 90s was a big deal for Millennials, some Gen Xers, and a few Xennials (the economy was better in every year of Clinton's terms). The HW Bush years were scary for people who cannot dance because you had to know how to do the Robocop, Running Man, Roger Rabbit, Reebok, Bobby Brown, and Humpty dance. Club kids were using a lot of LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) to dance to house music, so they cannot recall those days so easily in this current time. Diehard TV fans found the shows of this era to be overly 'syrupy' like Life Goes On, Blossom, and Full House. Most of all, the PSAs (Public Service Announcements) that ran during afternoon children's programming blocks terrified children of the HW Bush era for ages.
The Best Things To Come Out of the HW Bush Era
The HW Bush-era brought us all closer to the 21st century with the introduction of new-age primetime adult cartoons, the internet, the fall of the Soviet Union, and sound-activated toys. The Simpsons was the most controversial new dysfunctional family to come out of the early 90s. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant that children and teens of the 20th century would no longer have to hide under their desks in fear of an attack from the USSR. CompuServe was one of the first-ever Internet services, but the Internet did not quite catch on until AOL came along in 1993. Sound-activated toys like the Rock N' Flowers and the Dancing Coca Cola Can were everywhere from electronics shops to Kay-Bee Toy Store when Bush the Elder was President. The biggest surprise of this era came when McDonald's began competing with Domino's Pizza and Pizza Hut. I've never had McPizza, but it looks good from the photos.
I'm going to close this article by saying goodbye to the greatest one-term President of all time. Rest in Peace and Power, President George HW Bush. Not a day goes by when I don't wish I were living again in the HW Bush-era. I will always say that as a Xennial, the most important event I ever saw was turn of the 1990s (the start of the Bush 90s). To President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, thank you for your service. I will never forget the HW Bush days of the 20th century! Thank you.
I leave you now with three videos that sum up the HW Bush era, Retrojunkers. Enjoy!
Well, till next time, Retrojunkers! Be safe and thanks for reading.