Don't Call Me A Poser!
An epic history of my 80s fandom from "The Little Mermaid" to "Scarface" and beyond.
That's a picture of me in the photo. My name is John, I am 23 years old and I am an 80s fan. There are thousands more like me my age and younger. This is a sincere thing we have going on. There are some websites out there that don't believe us, though.
Websites like Progressive Boink think that people in their late teens and early 20s have latched onto 80s fandom because it's the trendy thing to do. Have they ever considered that younger 80s fans are into it because they genuinely like the decade's entertainments? Many of us were 80s fans long before VH1's "I Love The 80s" or even 1998's "The Wedding Singer".
This is how it worked out for me.
NOTE: This article is about my experiences with the movies, music and TV shows of the decade. I haven't had any experiences with the decade's fashion outside of occasionally flipping up my shirt collar.
1987: At the age of 4 years old, I saw "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird" on Showtime.
This was the first 80s movie I ever saw. I'm a Muppet fan and anything relating to "Sesame Street" was my first contact with them. This movie made me laugh and made me feel good. I still hum the song "Easy Goin' Day" every so often...It made that kind of an impression on me. I'll still watch it on occasion and I realize the great lesson it has: There are many different definitions of family, but as long as there's love, then everything is fine. This movie was also my first introduction to Chevy Chase, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and Sandra Bernhard, all actors whose work I would come to appreciate as I grew older.
Heading towards TV, I recall viewing a special that introduced me to both 80s style and Disney. It was a special entitled "Totally Minnie".
The special was about a nerd (Robert Carradine, who played one perfectly in "Revenge of The Nerds") getting lessons (from Minnie Mouse and a fashion consultant played by Suzanne Somers) in style and how attract people, but eventually realizing that he just had to be himself.
I recall seeing a lot of attractive women dressed in colorful clothing and stylish but big hair, cameos by Philip Michael Thomas from "Miami Vice" and Vanna White from "Wheel Of Fortune" (I ended up developing a small crush on her...I've always been attracted to blondes), and a very cool reindition of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" as performed by Minnie and Elton John. I really liked that version of the song and I still prefer it to the original (I don't say that too often).
At a very young age, that special taught me that I should just be who I am. It would be difficult for me to do that. For example, an obsession with Disney would make me a target of ridicule and humiliation going all the way into middle school. I recall that I liked the character of Mickey Mouse. Those rat bastards I went to school with would say to me "Mickey Mouse Is Dead" over and over again. To me, he was real. In retrospect, I know that he wasn't, but what he represented to me was real...The concept of a stand-up and friendly guy, which was and is what I hope(d) to be.
I'm still battling to be myself to this day. Whether it's pop culture or politics, I've always been stuck in a pattern between doing my own thing and following the crowd. I'll learn to stand my ground someday (God willing).
1988: At the age of 5 years old, I saw the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".
It was the first 80s movie I remember seeing in a theater, and if you're going to be an 80s fan, this movie isn't a bad place to start. 80s cinema was thought of as a struggle between art and commerce, but this movie mixed both quite well. I don't need to lay out the plot for you, but I will say that this put an impression on me in several ways. This was the movie that turned me on to the works of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, both of whom were involved with many great 80s entertainments, which I'll get to in due time. This was the movie introduced me to the music of Alan Silvestri, one of my favorite composers. I'll often think about movie ideas and how Silvestri could do both the score and orchestrations. Finally, it introduced me to the concept of sexy women.
It's a cliche at this point, but Jessica Rabbit was one of the flat-out sexiest characters in cinematic history, live-action or animated. She's the reason why I like red-heads and why I like women with big tits.
1989: At the age of 6 years old, I see "The Little Mermaid".
This was the first proper Disney film I ever saw. WFRR doesn't count to me, because it was released by Disney's sister company Touchstone Pictures. I digress, though. This movie just made it in under the wire, coming as it did towards the end of 1989. I recall being enthralled by the songs. As a matter of fact, my first article for this site (back when I wrote under the name Captain Caps) was an article about different versions of the sterling ballad "Part Of Your World". This movie influenced me to believe in the power of happy endings.
That tends to get to people, though. This is one of the most divisive movies Disney has ever made. Many people prefer the ending from the original fairy tale (Check out the feedback for the article "Tragicartoon #2: The Little Mermaid...No, not that one" if you don't believe me), and tend to think that people who like the Disney version are crazy. My life has always been rough, though, and so to believe that good things can happen in spite of bad circumstances is a value of mine.
I'm tired of being told that I'm crazy for liking the Disney version. If you want to see Ariel ride off into the sunset with Prince Eric, go for the Disney version. If you want to see Marina lose her life but gain a soul because of her love for a prince who didn't love her, go for the anime version. Nobody's putting a gun to your head to pick either one. It's free will and nothing but.
Side note: Ariel was one of the first Disney characters to use a model for the lead character. In this case, the model was an actress you might have heard of in different circumstances. Her name is Sherri Stoner.
She mostly played bit parts in movies. Her biggest showcase was a 1986 movie called "Reform School Girls".
In it, Stoner played a young woman named Lisa, put in reform school because of running away from an abusive home. In the course of the movie, she's deloused with DDT and branded on the ass with a coat-hanger before she decides to kill herself by jumping off a guard tower.
Shortly after the movie, she started modeling for the character of Ariel. What a leap, huh?
Side by side:
I think she's a babe. Anyway, why would she be familiar to you? That's because she was the voice of Slappy Squirrel on "Animaniacs".
I think dating Sherri would be nice, as long as she didn't sound like Slappy when we were doing it...
Um, moving on: I also recall getting my very first taste of 80s music around this time. For the most part, I wasn't allowed to watch MTV, but in a rare moment, I caught the video for Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time".
I thought that Cher looked good in the video (then again, I was only in my single digits), but the song is what has stuck with me to this day. I've had a lot of problems in my life and I wish I could just reverse all of them. I often wonder how different my life would be if *I* could turn back time. Maybe I wouldn't be where I am now (single and working in retail), but then again, that might be a bad idea. If I did turn back time, I may not have gotten around to writing for this website.
Either way, the song is great and it has some cool sentiments. It's the whole concept of "what if?" as put into a rock song of about 4 minutes or so.
Unknown times in the late 80s:
I recall getting majorly into various television shows in the late 80s.. These are a few that I can recall off-hand.
In no particular order:
At the top of the list is "Muppet Babies".
We all know what the show was about, so I'll go into what I learned from it. Basically, I learned the value of the pop-culture reference from it. Through their usage of film clips in their fantasy sequences, I saw movies like "E.T", "Ghostbusters", "The Empire Strikes Back", "Return Of The Jedi" and even "Pretty In Pink" for the first time. Once again, I wouldn't see the movies in full for a while, but it was a good look into my pop-cultural future nevertheless. The show also taught me the value of imagination. I often find that life is pretty tough, but when I'm outside working or inside writing, I can imagine that I'm an ass-kicking babe magent. I was hoping I could be like that when I was younger, but things didn't really work out for me. I still have a great imagination, though. I write a good amount of fiction in my spare time and I think I could thank "Muppet Babies" for that.
Another show I would watch on CBS every Saturday morning was "Pee-Wee's Playhouse".
What did I learn from this show? To be quite frank, I don't have a fucking clue. As of the time I'm writing this article, the show is currently airing on Adult Swim. I'm watching it to do a little reminiscing and I'm agog at the sheer twisted brio this show has. The stereotyping is hilarious but tasteless in hindsight. For example, when you see clay animation in the refrigerator, the Chinese food has slanted eyes and the Italian food is represented by pizza, meatballs and things like that.
This show was also my first introduction to Phil Hartman, who essayed the role of Captain Carl. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any decent screencaps, but anybody who saw this show in its' early seasons could appreciate the mastery that Phil Hartman did his job with. His reactions were priceless, especially when it came to the Secret Word. They said that Hartman was fired from the show early on, but I think that it was just a hassle for him to go between the East and West coasts to film both "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" and "SNL" at the same time.
As I'm watching this show on A-S, they're airing the first season and there's this one character on there that I wish had remained. Her name was Dixie and she was the woman who would introduce The King Of Cartoons. She had long dark hair and pale-looking skin and was always attired in a taxi-driver's clothes. I couldn't find any screencaps of the character, but this is the woman who played her:
Her name is Johann Carlo, and according to what I've read about her, she's a performance artist who also works in theatre a lot. Judging from the photo, I think that she looks good, but then again, I like pale-looking women with dark hair.
Jumping from pseudo-education into the real stuff, I recall enjoying "Square One TV".
I wish I could say that I learned about math from this show, but I didn't. Next to science, it was my worst subject throughout my school years. Let's put the educational value to the side, then, and go into what I remember. Judging from the images above, what I remember the most was "Mathnet". I can't recall that much, but I do think that it mirrored fellow Children's Television Workshop production "Sesame Street" by taking lessons and turning them into entertainment. Probably my favorite part of these segments was the line "The names are made up, but the problems are real". With a little modifying, you could apply that to an actual cop show. I wish I had paid attention to the education, but I was in my single digits and I just wanted to be entertained.
Getting to cable, I was always watching The Disney Channel in my youth. They would run various segments as filler between programs. One of the things they would run was DTV. No, not direct-to-video...They wouldn't be getting into that shit until the 90s. This was a recurring segment where they would take classic Disney cartoon clips and set them to music from the 60s through the 80s. Between this and the specials they would run on NBC, I heard quite a few great 80s songs, often in unusual combinations.
For example, there was a video of various dark Disney cartoons set to the song "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This" by Eurhythmics. This song featured lyrics like:
"Some of them want to use you...Some of them want to get used by you.
Some of them want to abuse you...Some of them want to be abused."
Well, Disney has always managed to scare little kids. From "Snow White" and "Bambi" to "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King", there have always been disturbing ideas within the company's work. Still, this was extremely unusual. These interstitials and specials taught me about how music and images work together to stimulate the viewer into different fields of thought. Upon looking back at the late 80s from almost a 2-decade perspective, I was able to see that Disney was always looking towards youth by using the music they were listening to. When people complain about the Disney Channel now, they need to understand that the music used on the channel is what the kids of today are listening to...Well, some of the time, at any rate. It's like "The Breakfast Club" said: "The kids haven't changed...You have!".
And what discussion about 80s music for the young would be complete without a mention of our old friends Alvin, Simon and Theodore, and their female counterparts Jeanette, Eleanor and Brittany?
This was another must-watch series for me in my younger days. Every day after school, I would catch the reruns of this on our local FOX affiliate. I though that the episodes were funny, and emotional when necessary, but the music is what I remember the most. The big guns of 80s pop music like Michael Jackson, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper were introduced to me though this show. It was strange to hear songs like "Material Girl" and "Beat It" performed by young rodents, but they provided enough of a jolt for me to track down their stuff over the course of the next several years.
Speaking of 80s music with squeaky voices, I was also a fan of "Kids Incorporated".
Young kids (many of whom would go on to bigger things) sang popular 80s songs in-between dealing with the problems faced by most people in their age bracket. In a way, it seemed a lot like a live-action "Alvin And The Chipmunks". Why did the people behind these various programs connect fluffy pop songs to sometimes silly and other times seriocomic plotlines? I'll be up-front when I say that I don't remember many of the episodes themselves. I do find it odd that one cast-member ended up in an entirely different light from her 80s work.
Do you recognize the young girl in the following pictures?
Well, if you're into today's music, then you probably do.
Yep, that's Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson of the Black Eyed Peas. I'll be upfront when I say that I find it hard to believe that a woman who got her start wearing denim skirts and singing songs by WHAM! has any street credibility at all whatsoever, but then again, I am as white as a sheet with fear, so what the Hell do I know about rhyme and rhythm?
To put a cap on this, Disney comes into play once more with the shows "DuckTales" and "The Wonderful World Of Disney".
I didn't learn much from "DuckTales", but it did get me dancing around with the theme song. I enjoyed watching Huey, Dewey and Louie dealing with the various villains trying to steal Scrooge's money. This show was so big in the late 80s that a TV-movie aired on NBC. It was called "Super DuckTales" and it introduced the character of GizmoDuck. All I remember now of that now, though, is the clip where GizmoDuck blows up with a bomb. You probably couldn't do that nowadays. The TV movie aired on "The Wonderful World Of Disney", which was a one-stop shop for all my Disney needs. Old movies, new specials, cartoon compilations...I ate it all up. I'm a major Disney fan and this show inspired me to be one. Disney has inspired me to dream big and think positive. I haven't always done either, but I'm still in the game. I can thank Disney for that.
Also: Yes, I know that the WWOD logo comes from the ABC run in the late 90s. To my own defense, though, I couldn't find any pictures of the 80s NBC logo.
1991: This was the year that I turned 9 years old. I recall that this year was my first introduction to what has been called by many as the greatest music video of all time. I had seen fragments of the video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on TV, and when I saw that the video was available for rental, I decided to take a look at it.
I thought it was cool. The choreography was great and I really liked the music. I still dance to it every so often. It was awkward, though, because I was into Michael Jackson's music and videos roughly around the same time that Jackson would've been wanting to get into me. I'm not an apologist for the man's behavior and I think he's a very creepy person. I just really liked this video and the album as well...But we still have a few years until we reach that point.
This was also when I first became introduced to fully live-action movies of the 80s. I was participating in a reading program at my local library in the Summer of 1991. At the end of the program, we had an ice-cream party. It was fun and the ice cream tasted great. When I went home, I saw that the movie "The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad" was airing on HBO.
I asked my mom if I could record it. She agreed and I viewed it for the first time. I was too young to pick up on all the sexual innuendoes and puns, but the sight gags were extremely entertaining. There's nothing like seeing people falling down or getting hit on the head to bring a smile to my face. This movie taught me the value of a good laugh.
Speaking of good laughs, this was the year I was introduced to the music of "Weird" Al Yankovic as well.
He had made a cameo in "The Naked Gun" but that wasn't how I first noticed him. One of the people who would come and hang out me and my brother when my mom was out was a Yankovic fan. We borrowed some of his cassettes (and forgot to give them back). I became a fan immediately. Through his polka medleys, I first heard songs like Berlin's "Sex (I'm A...)", The Police's "I'll Be Watching You" and Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It". I would come across the originals in several years, but this man was the one who opened the gates for me.
"The Naked Gun" and "Weird" Al Yankovic taught me the value of a good laugh. I would be needing that because the next 10 years were going to be pretty rough.
1992: I was still 9 years old and I had entered the fourth grade. I had made a deal with my mom that I could rent a movie every weekend if I worked well and behaved well in school. The former was easy and the latter was difficult, but I was able to rent several movies within that time. The first live-action 80s movies I remember renting was 1980's "Caddyshack".
This movie introduced me to several things. For example, it introduced me to the fact that Florida was more than Disney World and Universal Studios. The Bushwood Country Club seemed like a pretty cool place, presuming that you can get in.
Secondly, it introduced me to the stylings of Bill Murray as Carl Spackler. His comedies may be more sophisticated now (the "Garfield" movies excepted), but there's no denying that he could do guy comedies like nobdy's business back in the early 80s.
His encounters with the gopher were hilarious.
Spackler does everything to get rid of the gopher, eventually blowing up Bushwood in the process. Somehow it ended up getting rebuilt for "Caddyshack 2" 8 years later, but let's put that to the side.
Finally, it introduced me to Rodney Dangerfield. He would be a great influence on my life. He had self-esteem issues but he turned them into humor and became one of the great comedians of our time. What I liked most about him was the battle of the snobs against the slobs that was enacted between Al Czervik (Dangerfield) and Judge Smails (Ted Knight).
Smails was a pompous jerk, much like a lot of the kids who made fun of me throughout my school years, but Czervik was the picture of intellgence, always ready with a sly retort to Smails' snobbery. When Czervik's side wins at the end, he delivers one of the all-time greatest closing lines in history:
"Hey, everybody! We're all gonna get laid!"
Who wouldn't want to say that when they emerged victorious at the end of a long battle? "Caddyshack" taught me that victory can be yours' if you play your cards right.
That was the first one that left an impression on me. Another 1980 comedy with SNL alumni would influence me as well.
I rented "The Blues Brothers" that year and that movie introduced me to several things.
First, it introduced me to the concept of R&B music. I've never been much into regular rock. I do like some metal and a select few alternative artists, but when it comes down to the wire, I want something I can dance to. In the above photo, you can see Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) dancing to Ray Charles' reindition of "Shake Your Tailfeather". I would dance around when that song came on. I also liked James Brown's reindition of "The Old Landmark" (truly one of the most energizing sequences in 80s cinema) and Aretha Franklin's performance of "Think". The sheer bravado of that performance got me boogying, and even try to duplicate the dance moves.
Secondly, this movie introduced me to the concept of "cool". Jake and Elwood were bad-ass. They tore up half of Chicago and didn't break a sweat. When you can toss off one-liners while zooming through a mall in your microphone-equipped car and not give a damn, that is the essence of cool. I wish I could be as carefree as that...I mean, I wouldn't wreck every vehicle within the borders of my state, but to just sit back and let what happens happen would be great.
Finally that year, I rented what would become one of my all-time favorite movies.
"Spaceballs"...I don't know what can be said about this movie that hasn't been said before. For me, this movie served as an introduction to the work of Mel Brooks. I would grow to appreciate his older movies as well, but this was the one that did it for me. It was filled with great one-liners and exciting situations. It also contained the first song that I got stuck in my head. The Spinners' "Spaceballs" became one of my favorite songs. It was silly, but it did tell the story of the villains in a really catchy way. I would sing it every day on the playground...Eventually others joined in. I don't know how many of them ever saw the movie, although considering how popular it has been over the years, they probably did. Still, it was one of the few good memories about my middle school years. My love of 80s culture would grow parallel to the problems I was having in my personal life.
1993: This was the year that I recived a guidebook of sorts towards the live-action movies of the 80s.
I couldn't find a larger picture of it, but the book was "The People Magazine Guide To Movies On Video". It was given to me by my mom who had found it at a discount store. I was already devouring movie guidebooks from Leonard Maltin and the like, so this was the next level. A whole slew of 80s titles were reviewed in that book. I picked up on pop-culture references and passages of dialogue for movies that I wouldn't see for years. If I thought the R-rated movies I had seen up to this point were something, then I hadn't seen anything yet. I read about sex and violence in all sorts of manners in these 80s movies and it interested me. The animal instincts are pretty cool and the 80s were loaded with them.
I actually read an interesting statistic somewhere. If I remember correctly, more than 60 perecent of all movies made in the 80s were rated R. That's definitely adult stuff...All the more reason why I wanted to get to adulthood.
Unknown times in the early 90s:
At one point in the early 90s, I saw another influential movie for the first time.
It's an intersting story about how I first saw "Back To The Future". Every week that I went to church, we were handed a circular that summed up the week's lesson. There would also be advertisements on it from businesses whose owners frequented the church. One of the shops was a video store called Trinkets And Treasures. On one extremely wintery night in the early 90s (I forget which year), I headed out to the video store with my mom. The video I rented was "Back To The Future" and my life was changed. This movie captured my heart and mind with a great Alan Silvestri score, good special effects and wonderful dialogue. There's one line from the movie that has stuck with me to this day:
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!"
It may seem like a reference to the flying DeLorean seen at the end, but there's an additional meaning to me. Following your visions can power you to a place where you don't need to think about negative thoughts. You can float above the tension with the greatest of ease. That's a wonderful feeling...One that I don't feel too often.
Also around this time, I saw two of Tim Burton's most notable 80s movies.
The first one was "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure". At this time in the early 90s I was only familiar with the TV show. When I heard that there was a movie, my interest was piqued. I first saw it on WPIX in New York. This was back when it was "New York's Movie Station". I saw a lot of 80s movies for the first time this way, but this is the one that stuck with me the most. This is another movie that I really didn't learn much from, but I enjoyed immensely. I guess what I got out of this was the fun that you could have while you were traveling. Also, as previously mentioned, I first heard Twisted Sister in a "Weird" Al Yankovic medley, but this was the first time I saw them in the flesh. They performed the great song "Burn In Hell" while Pee-Wee was leading the guards on a mad chase through the Warner Brothers lot. This part got me jumping around. There was so much adrenaline (at least to a 9-year-old at the time) in this sequence that this might be the reason why I like chase scenes in the movies I watch. Maybe I did learn some stuff from this movie after all.
I had also rented "Beetlejuice" around this time. I believe it was the Summer of 1993. It's been so long that I can't remember. Anyway, I didn't learn much from this, but I did get quite a lot of laughs out of it. My favorite part is at the end when Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) and Lydia (Winona Ryder) were going to get married against her will. She's objecting, but he clamps his hand over her mouth and speaks for her...IN HER VOICE. That cracks me up each time I watch it.
I can imagine you asking if "Batman" figures into this. Unfortunately, no. To this day, I've still only seen segments of the movie. I have never sat through the whole thing. I have this feeling that if I were to view it in full, then the parts would be greater than the whole.
Another movie I recall enjoying around this time was "Short Circuit".
Another great 80s fantasy, I really had some laughs at it. Probably the funniest part was the one where Johnny 5 used his human intelligence to get the drop on several Nova Robotics "hitmen" outside of a bar. Mud, rocks and "3 Stooges" humor worked very well together. My favorite line was "Hey, laser-lips. Your mother was a snowblower!". Very humorous stuff. I also loved the song "Come And Follow Me" that played over the closing credits. The lyrics were surprising beautiful. The chorus was great:
"Come and follow me to wherever the light breaks through. Come and follow me and I know you'll be dancing, too. In your eyes I see you're alive as me, so wherever you go I will follow you". At least I think that's the lyric. It's been a while since I've seen the movie...I'll have to break out my DVD of it soon.
Somewhere in the early 90s, I also recall watching "SCTV Network" reruns on Comedy Central.
This is another show that I don't think I fully grasped an appreciation of until I was older. "SCTV Network" was a very funny show. I had to buy several of the DVD sets a few years ago to see if it was as good as I remembered it to be. It was...They had a great knack for making fun of what was popular in the early 80s. One of my favorite sketches I saw on the sets was a spoof of the infamous Dr. Pepper "Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?" commercials. Rick Moranis, essaying the role of David Naughton, sang a song about his doctor, whose name was Dr. Schecter (Eugene Levy). It was a great take on how annoying those commercials must've been. The entire cast was great, but Moranis and Catherine O'Hara were probably the best. That isn't a knock on Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy and the much-missed John Candy, but I think that Rick and Catherine were really good at what they did. O'Hara looked pretty hot when she impersonated Brooke Shields in a sketch where Shields hosted a talk show while dealing with her over-bearing mother Teri (Moranis). The guys worked great together, especially as the sickeningly sweet vocal group 5 Neat Guys, total blasts from the past who wouldn't make it in the early 80s music market. Probably my favorite Martin character was Edith Prickley, one of the "station's" very energetic employees. She still plays the character occasionally on the "Elmo's World" segment of "Sesame Street".
What of 80s SNL, you might ask? Hold on a few years...We'll get there.
To end this section, I recall viewing "UHF" on Lifetime in 1994, I believe.
No, that isn't a typo. This movie did air on "Television For Women". I have no idea why it did, or why I was watching the network that afternoon, but I sat back and enjoyed it. It was a great piece of satire and I think that "Weird" Al is a pretty good actor. It was just so silly that I had to laugh. My favorite part of it was the music video within a movie "Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies". I just liked the backbeats, but when I heard the original "Money For Nothing" a few years later, I thought that the songs went together quite well. Yankovic could really make combine songs. I recall that he also did a parody of the theme to "The Brady Bunch", which he set to the tune of "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats. I didn't know about MWH at the time, but when I heard the original a few years later, I didn't really like it. The song seemed too pretentious, but Yankovic does a good job of skewering pretension. I've seen his latest video "White And Nerdy" and he's still going after the self-importance of various singers. Yankovic isn't an 80s relic...He's a viable influence to this day. He shouldn't have been talked about on "I Love The 80s 3-D" as if he were yesterday's news. Give the man some credit, would you?
1995: This was a cataclysmic year for me and Peter Gabriel helped me through it...But only a little.
I had seen several music videos from his 1986 album "So" on VH1. Interesting thing about that: I could watch VH1, but I wasn't allowed to watch MTV, due to adult content. Considering that I was watching R-rated movies when I was beginning middle school, this seemed a little off. Anyway, VH1 was my main thing and it has been ever since. They've always had great reminders of the past and music videos like "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer" were there on my TV. My dad had purchased "SO" on cassette for me when I was 12 years old (Yes, on cassette. Our family didn't get into CDs until the following year). I really enjoyed the music, much like I always enjoyed hanging out with my dad.
And then, on April 3rd, 1995, my life was irrevocably changed. My dad worked in NYC as a repairman for Bell Telephone. I had gone to work with him several times and hanging out there was great. He worked out of a basement in the building along with a few co-workers. They shot the shit a lot in between jobs and during the days I was there, I liked hearing their conversations. These days would be capped off by Giants games, museum trips, all sorts of wonderful things.
On April 3rd, my dad went into the city. He never came back. He died of a heart attack, but that isn't what they told me. They said he was in an accident. I stopped playing "Super Mario World", ran next door and got my neighbor to get my mom. Me and my brother spent the night at one of my mom's friend's house. When we went back home the next morning, all our relatives were there and a few friends were as well. My mom sat us down and told us what happened. Before she dropped the bomb, we looked over at our relatives' faces. Normally full of cheer, their faces grew dark with sadness. She told us and I started crying profusely. It's been rough since he died and I started listening to other songs from "So", which sort of reflected what I was feeling at the time.
The most notable song was "Mercy Street", It's about a rapidly-changing life and wanting to change things back. When you listen to the lyrics, you're listening to a tale of cruel fate that you can't change. There's this one line in it that has stuck with me:
"Dreaming of mercy in your daddy's arms again"
Considering what the next few years would bring, I would wish for that to happen. You never know how much you love your parents until they're gone. I wish my dad could come back just one more time. I want to hug him, talk to him, tell him how much I love him for what he did for me and how much I hate him for leaving our family behind, even though he had no say in it. I look forward to seeing him again when I die...We'll have a lot of catching up to do. It's amazing how songs can connect to memories. When I listen to "So" now, I don't remember the happiness I felt dancing around to "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time". What I do remember is the despair and hopefulness of his ballads. Despair and hopefulness are the things that make life what it is...Forever twisting and turning, never knowing what will come next, for better or for worse.
1996: For 7 years I had to deal with people insulting me and the things I loved. I had to deal with their insults as they morphed from "John John the leprechaun went to school with nothing on" to all manner of insults involving words like "fuck" and "shit". Whenever I tried to play their game, I was told to ignore them, be the better person and all of that. I was told that all the vicious epithets that were being hurled at me were only jokes and that I should lighten up. Whenever they insulted me, they got a slap on the wrist, but whenever I did it, I got detentions and in-school suspensions. By the time I got to the 8th grade, I couldn't take it anymore, and on a cool October day in 1996, I yelled out an empty threat of school violence. I wasn't going to kill anybody, but I was just so tired of their bullshit that I didn't know what to do anymore.
I ended up being sent to a youth hospital called Craig House. Don't expect to find anything about it online...This was a really private place. I only said something to get in there. I wasn't going to commit any acts of violence. When I was in there, though, I was dealing with runaways, young drug addicts and dealers, gang-bangers...Real bad-ass people. It was just like prison. We only got the basic channels, we were served institution food, we had to go to bed and wake up at certain times every day, we were only allowed one 15-minute phone call per day, we couldn't have food bought in by outside visitors...It was scary. I was only in there for a week-and-a-half, but it was the longest week-and-a-half of my life.
Around this time, "E.T" had been re-released on VHS.
I had asked my mom for a copy of this when I got out of Craig House. I had actually seen this movie several times before and had even dubbed it from an old copy I rented, but somehow the movie carried more gravity when I got out. I was feeling alone out there, looking for something better, much like Elliot (Henry Thomas) before he meets E.T. As my life started changing, I felt my spirit lifting slowly but surely, much like E.T taking Elliot across the moon. I was feeling good about possibly starting over. I was getting away from all the kids who bullied me (I would only come in contact with them about 5 or 6 times again over the course of the next half-decade). Although I was still in middle school, I had a feeling that good things were coming. That wouldn't quite happen yet, though.
A few weeks after I got out of Craig House, I went to spend a few nights at my Uncle Eddie's house. He lived a few miles away from a Blockbuster Video, and we rented a few titles for the trip. One of those we had rented was my first contact with the 80s stylings of Eddie Murphy.
Yes, at the tender age of 13, I rented the infamous "Eddie Murphy: Delirious". This was funny material and I was in hysterics, but maybe that was because of the profanity. I've never really been able to curse around my family members, but when watching this, I felt like I was cursing vicariously through Murphy. To hear the word "fuck" once per minute was a trip for me. I guess what I learned from this was that no matter how many times you say it, "fuck" is a really fucking cool word. If only I could wear my "Scarface" shirt in public...Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. We still have a few years to go before we "push it to the limit".
Of course, there were some items I didn't latch onto immediately, but that was because I wasn't old enough to appreciate them.
For example, "This Is Spinal Tap" is one of my favorite 80s movies, but when I rented it in 1996, I was only 13 years old. I was too young to understand the jokes. I had actually read about this in an "Entertainment Weekly" book I had recieved in 1994. They said it was one of the 100 best comedies on video. I've always been into comedy, so I figured that I would take a dive. The jokes were too dry for my taste at the time, but the songs were good. I had asked for it for Christmas in 2000 as one of the first titles I got on DVD, and I was able to get the jokes and laugh at the satire. I learned that there really is a fine line between stupid and clever, and "This Is Spinal Tap" is definitely on the clever side.
Unknown times in the mid-90s:
I've always been a fan of Steven Spielberg (as you might have surmised from what I've written so far), not only as a director, but also as head of Amblin Entertainment.
One of the most 80s of production companies, Amblin was behind a lot of great popcorn flicks. There were two 80s movies from them that I recall viewing in the mid-90s. One of them was "The Money Pit".
To most people born in the 90s, Tom Hanks will pretty much always be associated with dramas, but in the 80s, nobody could beat him when it came to comedy. I don't know what the impulse was for renting "The Money Pit" in the mid-90s, but then again, I was doing a lot of stuff around the time that seemed without rhyme or reason.
Anyway, the movie is about a rock music promoter named Walter (Hanks), who is in the process of looking for a house for him and his orchestra member fiancee Anna (Shelley Long). They purchase a dilapidated house, and in the process of fixing it, everything that could go wrong does. It was slapstick comedy at its' finest. Highlights include Walter nearly falling through the floor, only barely protected by a sleeping bag, him trying to fix a fountain and finding the cement angel on it watering him in a kinky manner, and a bathtub falling all the way to the basement. Walter just looks at the hole in the ground and lets out a hysterical laugh, a laugh of a madman. Easily the best scene in the movie, the laughter can still be heard on various radio shows. I recall that they occasionally used it when Opie & Anthony were on WNEW back in the late 90s/early 00s. I would recommend watching it if you can. It shouldn't be too hard...After all, it airs on WE: Women's Entertainment, like, every two weeks or so.
Another 80s Amblin production I really liked was "Young Sherlock Holmes".
I never read any of the Sherlock Holmes books, but I did enjoy this movie. It was a movie that asked "What if Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe) and John Watson (Alan Cox) met in boarding school?". The mystery they solved involved a cult that poisoned members who wanted out. The hallucinations were designed well. For example, one man thought that his pastries were coming to life, while another engaged in a few rounds of combat with a stained-glass knight (one of the first works ever done by Pixar). It was very entertaining and it taught the value of staying through the closing credits. There was an additional scene after the credits were over that was pretty shocking.
Another thing I saw at the end was the Amblin Entertainment logo, but with some music composed by John Williams. It was a brief fanfare, but it was tremendously energizing. I can't describe it, but I will say that it made great usage of string and reed instruments. This music was also heard at the ends of "The Money Pit", "The Color Purple" and the 1988 VHS release of "E.T" as well. I just wish it could still be used today.
1997: This was the year that I graduated from middle school. I got a sneak preview of what I hoped my high school years would be like when I started watching the movies of John Hughes.
This man is viewed by many as the person who defined teen movies of the 80s and I agree with that statement. I think anybody who has ever viewed one of Hughes' 80s movies has been able to relate to it in one way or another. Whether it was young love or fantasies of what you would like to see become reality, Hughes could do a take on them all. My first encounter with the man's work was "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".
I had actually first seen this movie back in the 7th grade. It was rented as a reward for having completed some hard courses. The teachers had no idea of what they got. When they heard lines like "Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond" and the rhyme that the nurse telegram performs, they must've been thinking that they made a bad decision. It wasn't that bad at all. I think that all kids have had fantasies about that one perfect day when you're out of school and playing hooky. I never did that, but I thought that it would be a trip if it ever happened. Once again, this is an example of vicarious living through entertainment. My small town isn't as impressive as Chicago, but to just hang around it for one day without the threat of bullies would've been Heaven.
I had also rented another Hughes movie that Summer, but this one had more of a fantasy bent.
"Weird Science" was a great fantasy. It didn't really teach me anything, but it did give me a great appreciation of the female form. I've always been an inveterate horndog (as you might have surmised at this point in the article) and Kelly LeBrock was definitely hot stuff. She just had this great combination of proper English manners and all-out sexiness, and in the movie she was sort of a teacher as well. She taught the values of confidence and being yourself to Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith). In a way, I guess this was sort of like a teen-sex-comedy version of "Totally Minnie", but I'd rather date Kelly LeBrock than Suzanne Somers.
I had gotten a lot of money at my graduation party. I didn't spend it on clothes or school supplies. Instead, I had taken my graduation money and purchased "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" along with quite a few other movies and CDs. One of the CDs I purchased was by another great Midwestern talent...Actually, 5 of them.
The group pictured is DeBarge. They were one of my first exposures to 80s R&B. I was influenced to pick up one of their Greatest Hits compilations after hearing the song "Rhythm Of The Night" in the movie "The Last Dragon". There was an energy to that piece that suggested fun and dance among new friends, far away from criticism and insults. I wanted to get out there and dance the night away...Unfortunately, I still had a bedtime to stick by.
Anyway, I purchased the CD and danced and swayed to all the songs on there. It's been years since I listened to it, so I have forgotten most of the song titles, but if I were to hear any of them again, I would once again remember my trip to the Jersey shore in 1997. My family got there and back on the train. It was a long and interesting trip, but I had my music to keep me going. I would dance alone to it or bob my head when I was around my mom and brother. I have always preferred to sing and dance either alone or in front of complete strangers. I've always had issues with my family either copping my style or not understanding it at all. For example, my primary form of dancing is pogoing, but my mom called it jumping around for a long time. I didn't jump senselessly...I kept in tune with the music and for my dancing to just be referred to as jumping really hurt me. I'll never dance in front of my family, but if there are strangers around, watch out, because I'll take you to town.
In the second half of 1997, I started watching VH1 evem more frequently. One of my favorite shows was "Pop-Up Video". I saw quite a few 80s music videos for the first time this way. There was one song in particular that really got me revved up.
The artist was Rick James and the song was "Super Freak". I wasn't paying attention to the pop-ups when I saw this video. Instead, I was dancing around the room to a flat-out funky song. It was like a revelation to me. I knew that (for the most part) 80s music was going to be my thing from now on. When it comes to things I wasn't paying attention to with this song, it included the lyrics as well. I had no idea that the song was about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. There must have been some sort of subliminal idea in there, though, and because I came to understand the lyrics, I wanted to know more about the decadence of all factors of the entertainment industry. My entertainment journeys over the course of my high-school years would teach me that they didn't call it the decade of excess for nothing.
My adventures in the world of video rental continued when I rented "Revenge Of The Nerds" around November of 1997.
It was a very entertaining movie that gave me hope. I was somewhat of a nerd in my younger days and I was always being bullied by jocks. I really hated my middle school pep rallies. Why the Hell would I want to cheer the athletes who got away with murder when they insulted me six ways to Sunday? To watch this movie was a vicarious experience for me. The nerds were able to defeat the jocks with their intelligence and also win some girlfriends as well. I know that movies like this are laughed at now and called unrealistic, but the people who say that are uncomfortable with the fact that the people they made fun of are now doing well for themselves despite the insults.
To cap it off, at Christmas 1997, I recieved my own VCR. I had also gotten a gift certificate to an entertainment store called Media Play. I bought a lot of VHS tapes and CDs with the certificate. As always, a movie and a CD inspired me even further.
The tape that stuck with me was a movie written by the ubiquitous John Hughes.
I had actually rented this earlier in the year, but it was just so funny that I had to own it. I thought that going on a vacation like that would be funny. Many now say that Chevy Chase isn't funny. Maybe not now, but in 1983, he was hilarious. There were 2 parts I really liked. The first one was when Clark Griswold (Chase), fed up with his family's complaints, delivers the following screed:
"I think you're all fucked in the head. We're ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well, I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun and you're gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much fucking fun we'll need plastic surgery to remove our godamn smiles. You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of your assholes! I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!"
Once again, our friend "fuck" appears and it never fails to send me into hysterics. Okay, I'm not the mature, suave guy you would think I am, but I enjoy the simple things, and there's nothing like a well-placed profanity to brighten my day.
The second thing I like? Well, I have 2 words for you:
Yowza, she was a total 80s babe. She wasn't a good actress, but who wanted to see that? Her face and figure were dynamite. To my memory, she was also one of the first women I ever saw in a bikini in a movie. That figure of her's was dynamite. She looked hot. She's not much to look at now, but she was the first 80s babe I would have a crush on.
To cap the "Vacation" discussion, this movie was also my first exposure to nudity on-screen (no pun intended).
The lady and her body? Beverly D'Angelo.
Damn, she looked good. It was only brief nudity, but she had a great rack. I think that if there was more nudity on her part, the movie would've been cooler, but still, we have the Internet for our nude needs. Speaking for myself, I would seek all the nude scenes I could from here on out. Hey, I was 15 when I purchased this...What would you expect me to do?
The CD that really moved me was a "Greatest Hits" album by The Pointer Sisters.
Throughout the late 90s, I would gain an apppreciation for 80s R&B and this outfit was great at it. I had first heard their song "Neutron Dance" when I had purchased the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack from Columbia House earlier in the year, and apparently I had heard it even earlier then that as it was used in the previously mentioned "Totally Minnie". Their music was great to dance to and relax to. The songs inspired me to write fiction ("Automatic"), think romantic ("Slow Hand") and hope for something better ("Freedom"). That last song was important to me. For my 9th grade year, I was in a special education school called Clearview. I've had Aspergers' Syndrome (a form of autism) all my life and they thought that Clearview could help me, being as other challenged kids went there. Unfortunately, I found out how different their challenges were. I was with the severely mentally retarded, mutes, people who had to press buttons to indicate what they wanted to do...I wanted out. I wasn't like any of those people. I wasn't mentally challenged (although I did have certain problems with courses like math and science)...I was emotionally challenged. The song "Freedom" expressed a sense of hope for me. As a matter of fact, I would play that song on my CD player the day I left that school in 1998...The year when my 80s fandom really went into high gear.
1998: Years before "I Love The 80s", VH1 was airing movies and music from the Reagan era. One evening, they aired the infamous "Breakin'" as part of their "Movies That Rock" series.
I had heard of break-dancing long before I had seen this movie. I had tried doing backspins and moonwalking, but I just wasn't built for it. I'm a great pop-locker, though. I figured that if I couldn't break-dance on my own, then I would leave it to the pros, and they didn't come more professional than Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers and Lucinda "Special K" Dickey. I thought that they were all terrific dancers. On top of that, this movie fueled my appreciation of 80s R&B further. My favorite song from the soundtrack was "Breakin' (There's No Stopping Us)" by Ollie & Jerry. It was very inspirational, but oddly, it didn't help me out. There are plenty of items on this list (and more still to come) that have taught me to be confident, but if I like them so much, then why am I still suffering from depression? There has to be more to this than just medical issues. I only hope that I can figure it out someday. Either way, if I need a quick pick-me-up, all I have to do is give this movie the once-over and I'm charged up again.
In late Winter of 1998, I wanted to get "Super Freak" on CD. On another Media Play sojourn, I came across the CD "Only Dance: 1980-1984".
For further history behind this, I refer you to my article "Famous Death: Caught Off-Guard". The cover is rather small, but you can go to Amazon and look it up. You'll be amazed at all the songs that are on there. Everybody from Bananarama and Sheena Easton to Blondie and Talking Heads were on the disc. I recall listening this when I was down at Walt Disney World in 1998. To me, Florida has always had a rather 80s sensibility about it, but that's probably because of the discs I bring down with me each year. From 1997 onwards, I've always bought my CD player with me whenever our family goes to Walt Disney World and I've always had a book full of 80s discs at the ready. I just hope that I'll be able to take my stuff on the plane next year, but after the eventually foiled terrorist plots of 2006, who knows?
Near the end of my time in Clearview, my class gathered up the money they earned and went on a trip to a local mall. "Money you earned?", I can hear you asking. Okay, here's the situation: As if hitting the books wasn't enough, we were forced to do work around the school as well. Doing stuff like packing food into crates and delivering it to other classrooms or stuffing flyers into envelopes was part of the cirriculum as well. I didn't want to have to bother with this yet. This school was breaking my balls enough as it was. The only upside of this is that we got paid for our work.
Anyway, when we went to this mall, we were allowed to buy stuff with the money we had made. One of the items I bought was an 80s CD. The CD? "Licensed To Ill" by The Beastie Boys.
This was my first exposure to 80s rap. It's strange that the people who introduced me to this genre were 3 white guys and not a black person, but I enjoyed it. The track I bought it for was "Fight For Your Right (To Party)". I had seen pieces of the video in a commercial for a "party music" compilation, and I liked what I heard. I figured that I would take the dive and I ended up enjoying the entire disc. It was brash, in-your-face and overtly misogynistic and that was just fine by me. I know that the Boys have said that they wish they hadn't be so immature, but when you're in your 20s, you tend to say stupid shit. It doesn't make you a bad person...It just makes you somebody who hasn't fully grasped the concept of kindness yet.
We now proceed into the Summer of 1998. I've set up an Amazon account. I'm too young to buy stuff on my own, so my mom does the purchases for me. One of the first items I bought was a book by Matthew Rettenmund called "Totally Awesome 80s".
I was amazed at the amount of 80s stuff covered in there. From pop music to politics, so much was talked about that I couldn't believe it. I started using this in various ways. For example, there was a section devoted to 80s slang, and phrases either started creeping into my vocabulary or were cemented further in my linguistics. I found myself using the phrase "sucks" more often and I was confident enough in my sexuality that I do impressions of Valley girls with no problem. The music section caused me to start roaming stores like Media Play for every 80s compilation I could. I ended up tackling all sorts of 80s genres from heavy metal to adult contemporary, and I think that Matthew Rettenmund helped out a lot. If he ever reads this, I want to say "Thanks, Matt. You wrote a good book!".
We're now in the late Summer/early Fall of 1998. Two albums from 1986 were introduced to me around this time.
The first one was Eric Clapton's "August". I found this on a cassette laying around the house. My dad was a tremendous Eric Clapton fan, who liked all of the work he did from the 70s up until the 90s. He would walk around the house singing pieces of "Lay Down Sally" or "Bad Influence". He instilled a love of Clapton in me as well. "Influence" was on the "August" album, along with a lot of other great tunes. My favorite track on there was "Take A Chance". It was a very inspiring cut...Very upbeat. My favorite lyric was:
"I'm looking for danger inside the sweetest smile. I don't know why I feel this way...I only know I love it and I feel so free today".
What a wonderful feeling. I listened to this over and over again on a Big Brothers/Big Sisters trip to Six Flags Great Adventure. The adventure wasn't so great, though. It was rather regimented, the lines were too long and the only thing I had to eat all day was 2 slices of pizza. It was too late for me to eat anything else when my mom got home me and my brother back home around 9:00. Of course, if I was an adult, I'd be eating with no problem at all, but then again, I still had a bedtime to worry about, as well as traveling time. 1998-1999 was my 10th Grade year, and within it, I was going to a BOCES program at Ardsley High School. The classrooms were in converted storage space...We really weren't acknowledged during that time. The school was a gigantic campus that seemed to stretch on forever, but we were in our own little world. Maybe it was for the best...Special education kids tend to be really fucked up, myself included.
That same year also saw me take another trip to Media Play. They would have a display of discount CDs that cost only $3.99 per disc. Forever on the look-out for retro product, I decided to pick up a copy of the "Running Scared" soundtrack. Once again, it was bought just for the Hell of it. At this point in the 90s, I had amassed a decent collection of 80s compilations, but I hadn't purchased too many soundtracks. The only 80s soundtrack I had before 1998 was the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack. Have you ever noticed that action movies tend to have great soundtracks? For example, "Running Scared" contained songs by Michael McDonald, Patti LaBelle, Kim Wilde, Ready For The World, Klymaxx and Ready For the World. That is some great 80s stuff. The 80s was like a Silver Age for dance music. Even the rock music was danceable. I recall visiting Pleasure Island's 8 Trax at Walt Disney World a few years ago...One of the tracks they played that evening was "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Dance music knows no bounds.
Joan Jett will be coming back later, but in the meantime, we now fast-forward to the late Fall/early Winter of 1998. It's around the time of my one-year anniversary with my girlfriend. She's introduced me to the concept of dirty nursery rhymes. I thought that she had just made them up, but then I started hearing it from a very different source.
My ex-girlfriend did break my heart, but if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been introduced to the stylings of Andrew "Dice" Clay. While my like of his work wouldn't fully manifest itself until a few years later, I started enjoying his work...the dirty nursery rhymes, at any rate. I know that the Diceman has stated his hatred for doing these and he's made many efforts to get past it, but it still gets me every time. Eddie Murphy taught me the value of vugarity (is that a contradiction?) and the Diceman reinforced it. I tell my own versions of these rhymes every so often. I should probably do one about my ex, who was pretty much a frigid witch of a woman.
The Diceman wasn't the only comedian who I was into at the time. Around this time, I started watching "Saturday Night Live" reruns on Comedy Central.
Since Allison has everything from Dennis Miller's debut on up locked up, I think I should say a few words about the Dick Ebersol era of "Saturday Night Live". I watched SNL reruns from this era every night after school on Comedy Central. My love of 80s pop culture was charged up by these reruns. I won't knock the 1985-on-up episodes, but I would rather watch Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat and Billy Crystal as Fernando than Kevin Nealon as Mr. Subliminal and that slimeball Al Franken as Stuart Smalley. I guess the reasons why I like the Ebersol episodes are that they told me what was going on in the world when I was a baby and also because they had funny characters. Eddie Murphy was easily the best cast member of any SNL season in the 80s. I loved characters like the aforementioned Buckwheat (the "Buckwheat Sings" sketch was hilarious) and Velvet Jones (The pimp who wrote the book "I Wanna Be A Ho")...It's only natural that I would love his cinematic work as well. My favorite Eddie Murphy movie from the 80s? Three words: "Beverly Hills Cop"
I rented this movie, along with "48 HRS" and "Trading Places" on my 16th birthday. Out of the 3 of them, this was the one that remained with me. It's a very simple story about a Detroit cop who comes to California looking to solve his friend's murder, but the situations were hilarious. My favorite one was when Axel Foley (Murphy) assumes the guise of Victor Maitland's (Steven Berkoff) supposed boy toy. Many people accused Murphy of homophobia in the 80s, but it was all a joke. People are so politically correct that it sickens me. I look at it this way...If you're going to insult me, then let me insult you back. Exodus had some good points.
My 80s fandom is moving along at a good pace, but I decided to exploit it in a rather unusual way. I joined the Warner Brothers Club (a predecessor to the current Toon Zone boards) around January of 1999. This was back when the board concentrated exclusively on the works of the Silver Age Of Warner Brothers. I had been reading Silver Age fan-fiction for several years, so I decided to join in and start a story of my own. It was an "Animaniacs" chain-link fan-fiction called "Warner Academy". It had the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot becoming police officers to stop Disney from dealing in illegal Beanie Babies (I had wanted it to be drugs, but another collaborator decided to make it just a little more family-friendly).
How did I get an 80s fix in with 90s characters? Easy...I wrote it so that the Warners got assistance from Axel Foley.
I wrote Axel as a foul-mouthed and somewhat duplicitous character and the others took the ball and ran with it. I also included a reference to "Ruthless People" and I wrote out a montage set to Golden Earring's 1983 song "Twilight Zone". Because of this, I gained infamy for my 80s fandom. Over the course of the next 4 years, I would include 80s references in every story I helped write. By 2000, my 80s fandom was so well-noted that they made jokes asking how I could be an 80s fan when I was still in high school.
For a look at the stories I worked on, go to http://wbc.toonzone.net/fun/fanfics/. When you're there, look for any story that lists Captain Caps as one of the authors. Since the sections have been edited together, you may not be able to tell who wrote what, but if you see any 80s references, 9 times out 10 that part was written by me.
A month after this, I started subscribing to Time-Life's Sounds Of The Eighties series.
If I remember correctly, I first saw this advertised on TV. Once again, my mom came to my aid on this one. With her credit card, I recieved my first CD...The 1986 disc. 18 tracks by a wide variety of artists were there for the listening, and listen I did on the rides to and from school. It was an hour to and from school (I had to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge) and I needed something to keep me busy on the ride. This disc started me off great. The artists on there included Robert Palmer, The Pretenders, Starship, Dire Straits, Falco, Run-DMC, Bananarama and Mr. Mister. Interesting thing about Starship...The song by them on the 1986 album was "Sara". I heard that song and I fell in love with it immediately. Anyway, we were allowed to bring in our own music to our small physical education class (Our class was separate from the main school's). I played the 1986 disc one day, and one of the songs I played was "Sara". This got a bad reaction from everybody except the teacher. I got complaints about it from the other kids, one of whom bought in a copy of Jethro Tull's album "Aqualung" for accompaniment. Say what you will about their music, but in the clinch, who would you rather listen to when you were working out: Starship or Jethro Tull? I guess that I was unconsciously trying to make my own real-time workout montage like you might see in an 80s movie. Of course, I'm not good-looking so I would be more like the comic relief than the leading star, but a guy can dream, right?
Now we come to the Summer of 1999. I have a VCR in my room and I don't know shit about DVDs, which are starting to become the big thing around this time. I figured that I would do the retro thing and get 80s movies on tape. The flea market has always been a big thing with me. I didn't have HBO from 1997 to 2002 due to cable issues, so I couldn't tape 80s flicks off of there. Our town's flea markets were always great places to find old movies. There was this one display there at the August flea market that stunned me. It was practically a mom-and-pop video store out in the open. I wanted to take the entire booth home with me, but, of course, such a thing couldn't be done. I picked out some retro tapes, though, and I really enjoyed them. The two that come immediately to mind are "Tapeheads" and "Cookie".
"Tapeheads" starred John Cusack and Tim Robbins (two people who would probably spit on me and kick me to the ground if they knew my political beliefs) as a pair of friends who are into making music videos. What caught me about this was the music. There were some brilliant images going on. One of the videos the duo makes is for a German dance group who lip-synch to the Devo song "Baby Doll". It was a very catchy tune, and the images of the band being doused in paint were very funny. There was also a rap done by a white guy with white hair named King Cotton. He played a character named Roscoe, who rapped about his restaurant which served waffles and chicken. Racist in the extreme, but totally funny.
"Cookie" was another fun movie. Not much of a plot: It was a film about the daughter (Emily Lloyd) of a mobster (Peter Falk) who has just been released from prison. He gets back into the game and takes his daughter with him. It was a very colorful movie. Probably my favorite sequence was the one where Lloyd and her friend (played by a pre-talk show Ricki Lake) are wandering around the city and scamming sellers of various items while the song "Americanos" by Holly Johnson played in the background. What caught me about the movie was the poster, which you can see above. It had a dapper-looking Falk and a trashy-looking bubble-gum-blowing Lloyd standing in front of a limo under the Brooklyn Bridge. Pretty cool. The movie was directed by a woman named Susan Seidelman. She'll be coming up again soon.
I was still relying on my mom for most of my needs when it came to buying entertainment items, but that's because I didn't have a job yet. I was shackled to the Boy Scouts, which I had joined in 1990. My dad was a Scoutmaster, which made it fun. When he died, it stopped being fun and it became a chore instead. To keep my mind off of it, I looked for new outlets to get entertainment from. That's when I joined Columbia House.
Actually, this was the second time I had joined. I had become part of it a few years before in 1996. I tell you, those free CD offers are like candy, and back then, I couldn't get enough. The first time out, though, I had purchased stuff like the "Dazed And Confused" soundtrack and Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck albums. I had also purchased a CD called "I Am An Elastic Firecracker" by a group called Tripping Daisy, but I didn't really like the music. I just thought that it had a cool cover.
This was 1999, though, and I was in it for the music. So, I took advantage of the free discs offer and I continued my trip back to the Reagan era. The two CDs I recall the most were "She's So Unusual" by Cyndi Lauper and "Combat Rock" by The Clash.
My first experience with Cyndi Lauper's music came through "Weird" Al Yankovic, who spoofed her trademark "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" with "Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch". I had then seen parts of Cyndi Lauper's music videos when I was channel-surfing in the late 90s, so I figured that I would take a dive and buy her best 80s album. I loved it from the first time I heard it. My absolute favorite track was, and still is, "Time After Time". It was another great ballad that made me think about what was going on in my life. I was in my 11th grade year, and I was getting closer to adulthood, if only by numbers. I wanted to get back to a more innocent time, before I was dealing with the problems of this school year, which will be detailed in further later. Lauper's song was one of great reflection. I still listen to it whenever I can...It's such a thrilling song.
We now come to The Clash. I know that many people have said that "Combat Rock" was too pop-oriented, but if that's true, then these were some great pop tunes. Everybody remembers "Rock The Casbah" (I'm surprised that that song hasn't been covered on any of the "I Love The 80s" programs yet), but my personal favorite was "Overpowered By Funk". I didn't really agree with the message of the song (If I'm interpreting it correctly, it was a criticism of America helping out other countries), but I loved the rap at the end. It was done by a rapper named Futura, and it had such a brashness to it. It was a major boast about his coolness and his graffiti work. I loved his end line: "Funk power...Over and out!". If you visit my MySpace page and look at my blog, you'll see that I end every entry with that line. It's a great way to sign off, but we won't be doing that any time soon.
Let's now travel back to September of 1999. This was when my 11th grade year started. I was now having to make a haul across the Hudson River to a town called Mamaroneck, where Rye Neck High School was located. As always, I had my music with me. A few weeks before, I had purchased two greatest hits compilations by, respectively, the decade's most infamous female singer and one of its' best pop groups. The former was Madonna and the latter was Bananarama.
Somehow, I've always found myself drawn to female singers. Maybe it's the result of having grown up primarily around women (most of my teachers were women, I was raised my mom after my dad died and her friends were always hanging around the house), but I've always enjoyed listening to a woman's voice, and nobody could sing better than Madonna. The disc I had purchased was her compilation "The Immaculate Collection". The only Madonna album I had purchased before that was "Like A Virgin", so TIC gave me a look at her career up to 1990. Once again, the song that jumped out at me was a ballad. In this case, it was the song "Crazy For You". I adore that ballad. As I was making the trip to school every day, I would listen to this song two or three times per ride. I wanted to slow-dance with someone to this one. It's too bad my girlfriend was uncomfortable with intimacy (or so I thought, but that's coming up later), so I just listened to it myself and imagined what it would be like to dance with a beautiful woman.
Bananarama was certainly a beautiful group. I had purchased their "Greatest Hits" compilation (the 1988 one, that is), and I loved it immediately. I had purchased it for the song "Venus", which is an all-time favorite of mine (even though I already had it on a few compilations), but I ended up liking all of the other songs. For me, the best of the other songs on there would have to be "I Heard A Rumour". There was a great bounce to it that always perked me up. I think that Stock/Aitken/Waterman had a lot to do with it. At this point, I was also listening to other talents they produced like Rick Astley and Dead Or Alive and I was dazzled. Whenever I listened to them, I thought this music is what could be heard at an entertainment industry party, like a movie premeire or an after-party at an awards show. Of course, 80s nostalgia wasn't a big thing yet, so my predictions were a little off. Still, if they were off, at least the rhythm was on.
Not to be outdone, two male musicians earned my fandom in 1999. The two of them were Phil Collins and (speaking of 1999) Prince.
When it comes to Collins, I had heard "In The Air Tonight" on classic rock stations quite a few times, and I had heard a bit of "Sssudio" (sp?) in one of "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medleys, but my first exposure to the majority of his work came through a "Greatest Hits" tape of his that I got from either my girlfriend or my best friend. Anyway, the 3 of us spent an afternoon in the late Summer around the house hanging out and listening to the music. I wish I could have slow-danced with my girlfriend to one of the ballads on there. Collins did some great ballads. Probably my favorite one would have to be "Separate Lives", a duet he did with Marilyn Martin for the "White Nights" soundtrack. There was a great sadness to it, but all the best ballads are sad. I could have danced with her to this track with her, but it must have slipped my mind. Little did I know that within a little over a year, my girlfriend and I would be "living separate lives" ourselves.
I bought Prince's CD "1999" with a Media Play gift certificate I got for Christmas. I had heard "1999" on VH1's "Pop-Up Video" one day and, just like with Rick James two years earlier, the pop-ups weren't on my mind...The music was. There was a great sense of egotism to it...The whole matter of "The world is ending, but I don't give a fuck! LET'S PARTY" was very cool. Still, there was another song on there that grabbed me more. It was a ballad called "Free", which was about relishing your freedom. The lyric that stuck with me was this one:
"Be glad that you are free...There's many a man who's not!"
It was a very poignant lyric that made me think about how school was sort of shackling me to a horror I was never going to get out of. One of those horrors was a kid named "Paul Taylor" (Name changed to cover my ass). He was a very flamboyant individual with a strange love of Charmin toilet paper's commercial character Mr. Whipple. He also enjoyed making fun of me. He made fun of my voice, insulted my intelligence and degraded me in my darkest hours. I was feeling really depressed about various things going on in my life, and I had a habit of trying to end it all. Whether I was banging my head into a brick wall or trying to stab my hands with pens and pencils, I was once again tired of being made fun of and feeling like I had no future, so I often said things like "My life sucks" and "I hate myself". "Paul" took the ball and ran with it. One day when we were walking out to gym class, he was making fun of me. I asked him if he was, and he denied it. We continued walking and then he imitated my voice and my threats to kill myself. I saw red, and I wanted to throttle that prick. The only thing preventing me from doing so was a big classmate grabbing me and holding me back. I've forgotten that student's name, but I'm glad he helped me. If it wasn't for him, 5 will get you 10 that I'd be in Craig House now.
Anyway, "Paul" and I were able to find common ground on one thing. We both loved the movie "Airplane!".
I loved this movie. It was such a brilliant comedy. What "Paul" and I both liked about it were the quotes. We would often exchange quotes like Captain Oveur's (Peter Graves) "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?" series of exchanges and, of course, "Don't call me Shirley". This is another one of those movies that can perk you up no matter what. My favorite character would have to be Johnny (the late Stephen Stucker). He was such an over-the-top character and I love anything that's done to the extreme. My favorite line of his is when there's a panic going on in the control tower. He's yelling into the phone "It's a twister, Auntie Em!". I've always found references to "The Wizard Of Oz" funny and that was the best one.
Johnny actually reminded me of "Paul". Both were very flamboyant, but Johnny was good-hearted while "Paul" was an out-and-out (possibly literally) bastard.
To put a lid on this year, this was the year that I first saw "Lethal Weapon".
I had actually rented the trilogy earlier in the year, but I didn't get to really view any of them since my mom objected to the content of the movies. Anyway, I turned 17 3 days before Christmas, which meant that I could finally start viewing R-rated movies on my own. In anticipation, I put the "Lethal Weapon" movies on my Christmas list. I recieved the movies for Christmas that year and I immediately thought it was great. This was in the days before I knew of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism and the fact that Danny Glover was more likely to support cop killers than cops themselves. Ignorance truly was bliss. Having said that, I love the action of this movie. Right from the beginning free-fall to the final martial-arts beatdown, it was brilliant action all the way through. My favorite part is still the scene where Riggs (Gibson) pretends to be a negotiator in order to get a suicidal man down from atop a building. When Riggs goes crazy and starts yelling out "Do you REALLY wanna jump?", I get adrenalized. I still watch this whenever it comes on, even when it's the edited version. Did you know that they recently aired this on Comedy Central? What were they thinking?
Unknown times in the late 90s/early 00s:
Around this time, Nick At Nite started showing 80s programs. Shows of the 50s, 60s and early-to-mid-70s were being shuffled to TV Land. One month, they were showing a variety of 80s sitcoms. One of them was a cult classic sitcom called "Square Pegs".
While I can't recall that many episodes, I can recall somewhat relating to the main characters played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker. In school, you've always had the haves and the have-nots. You don't have to be a woman to appreciate the struggle to climb the social ladder in high school. The character I recall most from the show, though, would have to be Johnny Slash (the late Merritt Butrick). The blonde guy with the sunglasses in the right-hand photo, Slash was hooked on video games and used phrases like "Totally different head, totally". Can any of our Californiana RetroJunkers tell me if people still talk like this in that state?
I also recall renting "Superman 3" in the 1998/1999 area.
This will be a sacrilegious statement to make, but I prefer "Superman III" to "Superman II". I don't know what it is about this movie that makes it more attractive to me than "Superman II", but if I were to hazard a guess, it would be Richard Pryor. In this movie, he played a character named Gus Gorman, who discovers he has great computer skills after being fired from his job. He uses these skills to help assist Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn), a villain who has a hot blonde girlfriend (Pamela Stephenson) and a high-rise apartment building with a ski slope at the time. Gus and Ross work together to create a new strain of Kryptonite that splits the Man Of Steel in two: one half is the defender of truth, justice and THE AMERICAN WAY (sorry, I'm still a little angry about the modification that was done in "Superma Returns") and the other half is a beer-swilling bad-ass. The battle between the two in a junkyard was well done. It ends on an up note with Supes correcting the problems made by his evil doppelganger and once again flying into the stars and smiling at us as he flies away.
Another movie I rented around this time was "Red Dawn".
I rented this movie in 1999, I believe. I can remember it because I had left the Boy Scouts around this time. My brother was still with the Scouts, so he went on a trip with them. I was looking for a movie to rent and this one caught my eye. The movie was pretty frightening. Seeing the Russians descending from the sky and using guns and bazookas on the entire school was disturbing. Even more sad was the scene where Patrick Swayze's character goes into town on a reconnaissance mission and sees his dad in a concentration camp. After 9/11, I think that the chances are very good that Middle Eastern terrorists might come to these shores and do something like that. This was a movie about being courageous in the face of adversity. That was one of the most dominant themes of the 80s and it was a pretty good thing to think.
I watched Encore a lot during this time. It sort of served as a substitute for HBO, but it had a wider array of movies. I can't recall whether it was in late 1999 or early 2000 that I saw it, but I do recall enjoying a Harrison Ford movie from 1988 called "Frantic".
This was a very 80s thriller about a man (Ford) and his wife (Betty Buckley) taking a trip to Paris. When his wife goes missing, Ford's character finds himself thrust into a world he knows little about, with his only guide being a hooker (Emmanuelle Seigner). This showed me a different side to the R-rated movie. Up to that time, I had only seen R-rated comedies and action movies, but this was the first suspense movie I recall seeing. There were some pretty intense moments in the film. One of them had a drug dealer asking Ford's character if he was "looking for a white lady". When he responded in the positive, he was given some cocaine. He snorted it and then sneezed it back out, wondering what the Hell he was doing. I also recall a scene where Ford and Seigner were in a club and they danced to the song "Libertango (I've Seen That Face Before)" by Grace Jones. With that scene, I saw that not all 80s clubs were fun and games. Some of them were really dangerous. I recommend seeing this movie if you haven't yet.
This was the second half of my 11th grade year, and I was wondering what the next step was as an 80s fan. I got my first paying job as a page at my local library. I finally had my own money...I no longer had to rely on my mom for purchases. One of the things I ended up purchasing was 80s music cassettes...and lots of them. There was a store called Music Music Music that I would visit as often as I could, which was, like, 3 times per month. I wanted all the 80s cassettes I could, so I got them in all genres. The ones that stuck with me the most, though, were the dance cassettes, of course. The next two 80s talents to earn my admiration were singer Stacey Q and a group called Pretty Poison.
Stacey Q was, and still is, a great singer. I love her voice...It's so light, sweet and cute. The album I purchased by her was "Better Than Heaven", and I was dancing around my room to it immediately. My favorite song on there was "Two Of Hearts". It was a very romantic song with a terrific beat. It was the kind of tune that I thought would be great to dance with my girlfriend to. Unfortunately, she was more of a ballad type. She was into Elton John and Celine Dion and stuff like that. As a matter of fact, I had purchased a copy of John's "Too Low For Zero" as a Christmas present for her in 1999, I believe. That was the one with "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" on it. She liked it, but I wish that she could have been into more danceable music. Anyway, I digress. I've been a fan of Stacey's ever since, and I look forward to hearing more from her soon.
As for Pretty Poison, the album I bought of theirs' was a blind buy. I picked it up off the 99 cent rack. That's where all the dance music was, and I would drop a good chunk of money per month when I went there. The song I remember the most from the album I bought was "Catch Me (I'm Falling)". It was more great club music that I had originally been exposed to through TV. There was a commercial for Entertainment Weekly, and they said that you would get a free two-CD set of dance music from the 80s and early 90s if you joined. I was already into an EW subscription at this point, so I couldn't get this disc, but I saw a brief clip of the video for "Catch Me (I'm Falling)" and I liked it. It showed lead singer Jade Starling and a group of high school students dancing down a hallway. It made sense, because the song was used in a 1987 movie called "Hiding Out", which was about a stockbroker who had to go back to high school undercover to avoid the mob. I haven't seen the movie yet, but if the song is any indication of what the movie might be like, I think I'll enjoy it. As for the song "Catch Me (I'm Falling)", I find it's a great song to sing when I'm doing karaoke. All I need to do is change a few words and it sounds like a song that could've been performed by a guy. Give it a shot...You have to be quick on your mind, though.
When I was at the library, I often borrowed CDs and VHS tapes from them. The best part was that I didn't have to worry about late fees during my employment that. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, one of the albums I borrowed was WHAM!'s 1983 release "Fantastic".
Go ahead and laugh if you want, but I really liked this album. Everybody is more familiar with stuff from their "Make It Big" album, but I prefer this one. Some of the songs were just danceable pieces with no meaning to them ("Wham Rap" comes immediately to mind), but others had dramatic sensibilities to them. One of the songs was called "Bad Boys", and it was basically a song about teenage rebellion and how it affected the parents. I would write out movie ideas and dream casts, and I inevitably included musical numbers in them. I tried to work in at least one musical number, and I thought that this would've been a good one, especially due to the drama of the lyrics peformed by the "parents":
"We can't help but worry. You're in such a hurry. Mixing with the wrong boys. Playing with the wrong toys. Easy girls and late nights. Cigarettes and love bites. Why do you have to be so cruel?
YOU'RE SUCH A FOOL!"
I imagined scenes of beatings and school shootings going on in a movie when I heard that song. I didn't communicate those feelings, though. I do recall writing a piece that slammed pretty much every student and teacher with all sorts of vile epithets and threats, but I never showed it to anybody. I looked at it a few years later and I was horrifed at what I wrote. If I could take it all back, I would.
I did have a few problems at the library. Some of them were serious, like my shrieking in fury at several patrons, but others were trivial. That was the case with my enjoyment of the show "Moonlighting".
I had read about this in the book "Totally Awesome 80s" and I had heard references to it on several other shows I watched. When I saw that reruns of the show were airing on Bravo (back before they became doped with reality shows), I took the initiative and started taping as many episodes as I could.
That was often difficult because I had to work on days when the libary closed at 9:00 PM. Despite this, I enjoyed the show, up until they started getting serious in later seasons. David Addison (Bruce Willis) was a very enjoyable character. I liked how he always had a joke or a song ready at any moment. The moments of fourth-wall-breaking and self-referencing were great as well. Despite this, though, the episode I remembered most centered around the rhyme-crazy receptionist Agnes DiPesto (Allyce Beasley).
Normally a very upbeat character, one episode saw Ms. DiPesto in a funk about the way her life was going. Every day was the same thing...Same route to work, same breakfast, stuff like that. Maddie Hayes (Cybill Sheperd) takes pity upon DiPesto and gives her a ticket to a fancy party. While there, DiPesto meets a mysterious man who entangles her in a money-laundering plot. It climaxes with her in a dry-cleaners, hanging off a rack in a laundry bag. She helps to end the case and, feeling re-energized, decides to do things differently the following day...At least when it comes to her breakfast.
Working at a library was a new experience for me and I must say that I enjoyed it, despite the difficulties I had. I expanded my entertainment knowledge this way, always checking out books and CDs of various 80s groups. One of the CDs I checked out was by Depeche Mode.
The picture above is of the cover for the single release of "People Are People". This was the Depeche Mode song I remembered the most. It had a great beat and good lyrics. I was still being made fun of, although it had slowed down. This song was about giving each other a break, and that's what I wanted. I think it was around this time that I was having problems with another student. I'll call him "Kurt Rand". We had gotten along pretty decently for about a year-and-a-half or so, but eventually we started getting into arguments. I forget what the arguments were about, but it all came to a head one day. I turned to him and said, "I just don't like you". A few seconds after I said this, "Kurt" ran up from behind me and gave me a boot to the back, knocking me to the floor. I didn't fight back...I just picked myself up and got back in my seat. We made a tenuous peace shortly after that, and a month or two into my 12th grade year, he moved away. I'm glad that he's gone. I wasn't innocent myself...I was a dick at times. I never got physical, though, and that reminds me of these lyrics from the song:
"Now you're punching and you're kicking and you're shouting at me. I'm relying on your common decency. So far it hasn't surfaced but I'm sure it exists. It just takes a while to travel from your head to your fist."
I wish he could've been decent enough not to get physical when I said that I didn't like him...I wish I had been decent enough to keep my thoughts to myself. It goes both ways.
Early in the 00s, I developed a fascination with the concept of Valley Girls. Maybe it's because of my fascination with the 80s or maybe it's because I have a fascination with blondes, but I really enjoyed anything involving these types of characters. Probably my favorite item relating to this was the song "Valley Girl" by Frank and Moon Unit Zappa.
Of course, Moon Unit Zappa (God, I love that name) didn't fit your Valley Girl archetype. She had dark hair and she was quite intelligent. That probably would've come from her father Frank, who was one of the most well-spoken musicians of a time-span from the late 60s to the early 90s. The song was loaded with interesting slang. I often found myself using words like "totally" and "bitchin'", and referring to the people who screwed with me as "bufu". Of course, I would do that behind their backs because if I spoke to them that way directly, they would make fun of my voice and they would wonder what the Hell I was talking about. That was in 2000, though...If this were 2003, then they might have a better idea of the language I was using.
Actually, my first introduction to the concept of the Valley Girl came through the early 90s cartoon "Tiny Toon Adventures". The character of Shirley The Loon (voiced by Gail Matthius) was a blast from the immediate past. Maybe it was her character that implanted the fascination with Valley Girls into my head.
Speaking of uniquely 80s ladies, I also found myself wanting to learn about the works of an artist named Patrick Nagel.
I had already developed a fandom of Duran Duran around this time, and I had a copy of "Rio" on vinyl. On the cover was a very bright-looking woman with jet-black hair. I thought that the woman looked good. Around this time, our class took a field trip to visit a local college for some reason that escapes my mind at the moment. We visited one of my teacher's friends later in the day and I saw some Nagel prints on her windows...At least I think they were. My teacher's friend was a hairdresser and she talked to us about her business. When referring to the pictures on her windows, I mentioned Nagel by name and she was surprised that I knew who he was. I really think that Nagel knew how to showcase images of 80s women. Several years later, I purchased a book of Nagel paintings off of eBay and my admiration of his work was confirmed. I wish that I could be that talented and I wish that I could meet women who look like that, with big hair and all.
While I was buying 80s albums by the score, I was still on my VHS kick. On one Media Play sojourn, I purchased quite a few 80s titles. The one I can remember the most is "Desperately Seeking Susan", which was directed by Susan Seidelman, the helmer of "Cookie".
I really liked this movie. Madonna hasn't really been a good actress over the years, but she really did a great job with this movie. The style was totally awesome. I just loved the way she looked in that movie. I loved it so much that when I helped write one "Animaniacs" fan-fiction, I had a villianess dress the way Madonna dressed in this movie. The multi-colored clothing, the jewelry, the sunglasses...It all came together great. The soundtrack was great, with the best track coming from Madonna herself. It was the song "Into The Groove", and I really enjoyed dancing to it. Dancing to a movie is rather unusual, but if the soundtrack is good, don't be surprised if your feet start moving around a little.
I also started getting into Billy Idol's music around this time.
Another result of my cassette-buying sprees, I ended up thinking that he was (and still is) one of the coolest singers of the 80s. The single sleeve for one of my favorite songs by him is pictured above. "Flesh For Fantasy" is such a great song. It has this great "you will be mine" attitude about it. I've never been a tough guy, but by listening to the song "Flesh For Fantasy", I can vicariously pretend to be the stud with the great voice that all the women like.
I also love the song "Rebel Yell". I'm into karaoke now and this is one of the songs I've done so far. When I sang this song, I got a great ovation from everybody. There's no way I can get the growl that Billy Idol has, but I sound pretty good anyway. Billy Idol can get a great reaction whenever his music is covered. I'm thinking of tackling his cover of "Mony Mony" next (GET PAID, GET FUCKED!).
Around this time, our class took a field trip to New York. We walked around the town for some educational reason (I forget which one, unfortunately). Anyway, the day was capped by a visit to the South Street Seaport. There was an entertainment store in there, so with some money I had, I bought a CD. It was a rather shocking one to buy on a school field trip. I purchased 2 Live Crew's 1989 album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be".
It was sampling forbidden fruit, and on a school field trip no less. I listened to this CD on the ride back to school. Listening to songs like "Put Her In The Buck" and "The Fuck Shop" while my teachers weren't even 3 feet away was quite exhilarating. The group knew how to use samples well. For example, one song called "Get The Fuck Out Of My House" utilized a vocal sample from "Eddie Murphy: Delirious" and a backbeat from the song "White Horse" by Laid Back. I didn't recognize the latter sample until I listened to the album several years later after making a mix disc of 80s music. I've done a lot of that, but we won't go there yet. Either way, I really enjoyed this album. Oddly, though, I was objecting to modern rap music at the time. I tried justifying the differences between 2 Live Crew and Eminem, but then again, rationaliztion isn't exactly a strong suit when you're younger.
I was also introduced to freestyle music around this time. The group that did it for me was named Expose.
I had purchased one of their cassettes off of eBay and it came with a bonus: A full-length VHS compilation of performance footage and interviews as well as a dub of "Video Exposure". This trio had a great dance sound to them. My favorite song by them would have to be "Point Of No Return". In a previous article, I had mentioned that Nu Shooz also did a song called "Point Of No Return". The two are different songs with different lyrics, but they express the same general sentiment of how a great love can charge you up. I think that Expose had the better lyrics, though. I loved this lyric:
"I wanna be with you, baby. I wanna be by your side. I wanna be with you, baby. I want to love you every night". I found them to be attractive. You may not think that they look good, but I'd go to the point of no return and beyond with them any night.
Speaking of Expose, or more accurately exposure, I saw my first 80s porno flick this year. It was a movie called "Lottery Lust".
The movie was about a guy who won the lottery and had to deal with gold-diggers and fake friends. It was a flimsy plot, but who watches these movies for the plot anyway? I can't really talk about it, but I will say that my favorite scene involved John Holmes (in his final adult role before he got AIDS) and Nikki Charm.
This movie also started a fascination for me. In this case, it was a fascination with 80s adult movies. Within a matter of years, I would start looking for movies from this decade. That's when I discovered talents like Ginger Lynn, Erica Boyer, Christy Canyon, Tom Byron, Peter North and (of course) Ron Jeremy. That's really all I can talk about right now. PM me if you want to talk to me further about it.
Shortly before my 11th grade year ended, I started visiting video stores looking for used titles from the 80s. I guess the flea market the year prior inspired me to go on this quest. There was this one video store that shut down shortly after I purchased some titles from there. The video store had actually gotten its' start in my hometown but had moved to another town. When visiting it, I was able to get some pretty good titles. One of them was a movie called "The Wild Life".
The movie could be called "Fast Times At Ridgemont High 2: Electric Boogaloo", but that would be tremendously unfair to this movie. It's about a young man (Eric Stoltz) who moves out of his parents' home and tries living on his own. It's a rather party-hardy time for him, and he soon grows tired of it, but not before a lot of comedy ensues. For a brief expansion on this movie, check out my article "Famous Death: Caught Off-Guard", for a small tribute to Chris Penn's importance as the character of Tom Drake.
I won another title off eBay around this time. In this case, I won a copy of the 1988 HBO comedy special "Live From Washington, It's Dennis Miller!".
I had previously seen reruns of his 'SNL" work on Comedy Central and I knew that he had his own show on HBO, but this was the first time I saw his work first-hand. This was one of the most hilarious tapes I've ever seen. I really enjoyed his riff on bad dancers:
"'Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no river low enough'. Hey pal, AIN'T NO FUCKIN' DANCEFLOOR WIDE ENOUGH! Loosen up, Mummenschanz, get a limbo stick!"
This made me laugh because I've seen some dancing over the course of my years that has disturbed me. Back when I was in Clearview, for example, there was a mentally retarded 21-year-old woman in my class. Whenever music came on, she would jump up and sway from side-to-side. This wasn't the kind of swaying that you would find at a hippie music concert, but instead an almost slam-dancing-like style of movement. I would say that she didn't know how to dance, but then again, she was M-R, so she couldn't really tell what she was and wasn't doing.
Around this time, I had purchased a copy of the INXS album "Kick" from Music Music Music. With every album, there's at least one song that stays with me. In this case, there were two songs that were strung together as one in the waning days of the music video era of MTV. The duo was "Need You Tonight/Mediate".
The first was your standard come-on song. It sort of has a "Cyrano De Bergerac" feel to it. It sounds like the words that a nerd might use to ask a girl about, but the words are delievered by a handsome man (in this case, the much-missed Michael Hutchene). The second part is the better one, at least to me. The song uses many words that rhyme or end with variants on the word/number "eight". It uses these to describe how crazy the world can be and how we might be able to make it better. I think of those thoughts when I hear lyrics like:
"Hallucinate, desegragate, mediate, alleviate, try not to hate, love your mate, don't suffocate on your own hate..."
I also like the synth work in the song. The music itself seems like backing vocals for both the sadness and the hope of these songs.
The Summer of 2000 is now upon us. Near the end of the season, I took another trip down to the Jersey shore with a duffel bag of cassettes in tow. I had a 5-cassette set with a countdown of the top 100 songs of 1988. It was another chance to expand my musical horizons. There were many songs on there that I liked, but the one that stuck with me the most was a song called "Piano In The Dark" by Brenda Russell. A few months before this, I had purchased a used copy of "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure". What do the two of them have to do with each other? Let's find out.
The song was one about longing. I was doing a lot of that. My 11th grade year was rough and I was really hoping I could go back and do things over again. Damn, I've been saying that a lot in this article, haven't I? Well, one of the dominant themes of the decade was the concept of wanting to go back to a time of normalcy. That's why there were movies like "Back To The Future" and "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure". Actually, in the latter the duo traveled through time to ace a history report, but even then, they wanted normalcy in their lives, considering that if they fail the report, their band will break up when Ted (Keanu Reeves) is sent to military school. Rectifying the damages is something I've always wanted to do, but I can't. When I listen to the song "Piano In The Dark", I imagine that none of the stress I had in the 90s ever happened. I imagine that everything is okay. Things would still be bad, though, as the coming 2 years would see me walking a line between youth and adulthood.
Anyway, I was listening to quite a few tapes on the rides to and from school that year. 2 of them were tapes by George Carlin. I don't think much of him now, and if he knew my politics, I don't think he would think much of me, either. Still, I enjoyed 2 of his 80s albums: "A Place For My Stuff" and "Playin' With Your Head".
The former was a mix of stand-up and sketch comedy. My favorite piece on there was a sketch called "Asshole, Jack-off, Scumbag". It was a game-show spoof where somebody had to guess whether a person was one of those 3. I forget most of the characters in that sketch, but one of them was a Texan who was categorized as a scumbag. Comedians tend to have a hatred directed towards Texas. It can't be that bad of a place. I would want to visit it someday myself.
The latter was a straight stand-up disc. My favorite piece on there was a bit called "Hello And Goodbye", where Carlin utilized his fascination with the English language to handle the topic of greetings. I liked the case of mixed ones he came up. My favorite one of those was "Toodle-oo, go with God and don't take any wooden nickels". That's the one that would stay with me the most.
There was another comedian who would play a part in my life this school year, but he's yet to come. In the meantime, I was on a major eBay kick, to the point where I lost all the money in my checking account and I couldn't complete several transactions. Before that happened, though, I recieved two albums by two performers with the last name Brown...In this case, it was James and Julie.
I picked up the former because I had heard the song "Living In America" somewhere. I don't know if it was VH1 or the radio, but I decided to pick up the album "Gravity" when I saw it on eBay. It was one of the best purchases I made that year. With this album, the Hardest Working Man In Show Business came sliding into the 80s and didn't miss a beat. "Living In America" was the big hit from this album, but I prefer the title track. It was a great combination of 60s and 80s instrumentation with very inspiring lyrics. This lyric was my favorite:
"If a man can dream, then he can defy G-R-A-V-I-T-Y!"
I was making my way to the end of my school days, and I was ready to float above it all. I was also defying authority as well, in my own unique way. I was making sexual references in class and I even wrote a story about bisexual punk rockers hired by a racist sheriff to kill a group of deviant socialites who sent alcoholic bums on murdering sprees. I wrote that piece because the computer said that my writing was on an 8th grade level. That didn't make sense to me, considering that I was at a 4-year college reading level. I tried to make the numbers match up with this story, which quoted lyrics from Billy Idol and The Jets, but it disturbed the teachers who read it. It was so disturbing to them that,
instead of getting detention or suspension, they put the story in a sealed envelope and mailed it to my home. They did that because they didn't want anybody else to see it. If they did, the chances were very good that I would've had to get a psychiatric evaluation. R&B music, regret, nudity, R-rated movies, psychology...I'm nowhere near the end of this and I'm still amazed at all this stuff. These could be the factors that got me to where I am today.
Enough of that, though. Let's lighten up matters and talk about Julie Brown's "Trapped In The Body Of A White Girl".
Julie is a very underrated singer. Most people are probably familiar only with the title track, but she can also do non-humorous songs as well. There was this one song on the album called "Calling Your Heart". As you might have guessed at this point, I really like love songs. Most of the good ones are ballads, but a few of them can be danceable. This song is a perfect example of that. Although I can't really recall the lyrics, the song compared love to a game of hide-and-seek. If I were at the age I am now in the 80s, I would've answered Julie Brown's call. She looked good and sang well. I would eventually purchase a best-of disc of her show "Just Say Julie" off eBay 6 years later (I re-joined under a new name and a Paypal account in late 2001).
Another tape I had acquired around this time was "Crash" by The Human League. This was a very unusual album for them. To go from New Wave to R&B was interesting. There was one song from the entire album that stuck with me. It was a song called "Human".
I loved this song from the first time I heard it. It was ostensibly a song about the troubled love of a man and a woman, but the lyrics that stuck with me came from the chorus:
"I'm only human...Of flesh and blood I'm made. Human...Born to make mistakes".
I was being all too human for almost a decade-and-a-half and I felt that people wouldn't let up on me. They all say that it's okay to make mistakes, but when you make them, you get caught in a force 5 shitstorm. I really wanted to get some relief from all the problems I was having. I was in danger of failing since I wasn't doing my homework, I was starting to have family issues and when it came to politics, I was the only conservative in a class of liberals. I just wanted people to accept me. I am human and so this song is sort of an anthem for me. It's all I can be, and if they can't handle it, well...
Another tape I recall listening to around this time was ABC's 1985 effort "How To Be A Millionaire".
I've always had a fondness for British music, despite the fact that I have primarily Irish heritage. I can't really think of that many noted Irish bands and singers. I know that there's U2 and The Chieftains, but I'm not quite sure of what else there is, but I could name 15 British singers and bands off the top of my head.
Anyway, this was a great album. My favorite song from here would have to be a tune called "Be Near Me". I never really felt any affection from my girlfriend. I had to instigate the hugging and kissing, and while she was receptive, she seemed frigid. I could feel how cold she was when I hugged her. She seemed empty to me and that wasn't something I wanted to feel when I was with her. When I listened to this song, I could relate to lead singer Martin Fry's plea for passion in his love life. I was amazed and saddened to know what frigidness was at such a young age.
One of the highlights of my final year of high school was my music class. We really didn't learn anything...It was basically an excuse to spend an hour or so listening to each others' cassettes and CDs. I was demonstrating my love of 80s music whenever I could. One of the tapes I played was Hall And Oates' "Big Bam Boom".
They didn't really react well when I played them my copy of Eric Clapton's "August", but they sort of liked this one. This was a favorite album of mine, though. This was the album that introduced me to the concept of "extended versions". Sometimes a song is so danceable that they'll expand it further and further for dance clubs. The song that was given the extended treatment on this album was "Out Of Touch". The song was a great break-up tune. It was basically about how the relationship between Daryl Hall and his "girlfriend" had changed to the point where they couldn't relate to each other anymore. The extended version was produced by a man named Arthur Baker.
He may look like a Southern rocker, but he was one of the flat-out funkiest producers of the 80s. For example, if you've seen the deleted scene from "The Goonies" where they toss a Walkman into an octopus' mouth to get him away from them, you heard his song "Eight Arms To Hold You". If you've heard that song, then you can see how he worked his stuff on this Hall And Oates song. He sped up "Out Of Touch", gave it echoes, used stuttering effects...He turned it into a great blue-eyed soul song. "Out Of Touch" was one of the best break-up songs of the 80s. Speaking of which...
In late 2000, I finally broke up with my girlfriend. We had been going since 1997, so I thought that the time was right to take our relationship to a sexual level. She wasn't interested in that, though...At least not with me. My brother went to the same school as my girlfriend, and someone told him that my girlfriend was masturbating to pictures of my best friend. I called it to ask if it was true and she said yes. My heart was broken. I tried doing the "let's be friends" thing for a few weeks, but in the end, it didn't work out. That's when I started thinking of Sam Kinison.
During one of my eBay sprees, I got a lot of 20 or so comedy cassettes. One of them was Sam Kinison's album "Louder Than Hell". The late Kinison was totally hilarious. I loved his riffs on 80s America ("Reagan is president and Clint Eastwood has his own police force!") and dealing with the poor in Africa ("Pack your shit! One trip! We're gonna take you to where the food is!"). At the end of the album, he did a song that he dedicated to his ex-girlfriend. He relates a sad tale and then sings this beautiful song:
"YOU LYING WHORE! YOU USED ME! YOU NEVER LOVED ME! I HOPE YOU GET HIT BY A TANKER TRUCK AND TASTE YOUR OWN BLOOD! DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE! I WANT MY RECORDS BACK! I WANT MY RECORDS BACK!"
I didn't want my girlfriend to die, but I still thought that she was a lying whore. Yes, I'm still bitter. Thankfully, my best friend at the time didn't take the bait. We don't talk much anymore, but I'll always be grateful to him for not stabbing me in the back. The last time I saw my ex in the flesh was when I took my SATs at my home district's high school. For a matter of 4 or 5 days, I was back among the whipdicks who fucked with me emotionally, but I paid them no mind and they didn't talk to me. Thank goodness for that...I would've yelled at them up and down the rafters if they wanted to talk to me.
A few days before our Christmas break, we had a Christmas party. We spent the entire day eating junk food and watching movies. I volunteered to bring in a Christmas movie, and the one I chose was "Scrooged".
This is probably my favorite variation on "A Christmas Carol". I guess that's because I'm an entertainment-industry addict and I enjoy seeing the frenzy of a control room during the filming of a TV show. Bill Murray, as Frank Cross, delivered a great performance. I especially enjoyed his interactions with Carol Kane as the Ghost Of Christmas Present.
Anybody who has seen this movie has probably laughed at at least one of these scenes. My favorite is the one where she's beating up Frank, but in a rather comedic way. I thought that the scene where Frank has a glitter "X" affixed to his cheek, which is then punched and sends him to the ground, was funny. Of course, the best line in there was: "THE BITCH HIT ME WITH A TOASTER!". That probably set the teachers on edge a little, as well as the scene where the crew members deal with a nipple slip on one of the Solid Gold Dancers.
I had also bought in a copy of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", but we only got through 10 minutes of that before the bell rang and we went home for our break.
We now come to Christmas of 2000. This was the Christmas where I recieved my first DVD player. I was excited. This was one of the few things I can actually thank my ex-girlfriend for. I was over at her house one day and we watched "Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery" on something that I had never seen up to that time. You could select the scene you want without fast-forwarding or rewinding...You could see scenes that didn't make it into the movie...You could view the original theatrical trailer without seeing it at the front of your movie. I knew then and there that I had to get a DVD player. I came down on Christmas morning and there it was...My first DVD player. It took a while to hook up, but I enjoyed it from the moment I saw it. One of the first DVDs I viewed was a copy of "Earth Girls Are Easy".
I had purchased this on tape earlier in the year, but in anticipation of possibly getting a DVD player, I upgraded it to digital. The movie was about a hair-dresser named Valerie Gail (Geena Davis) who gets interstellar help in her love life when she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. My fascination with Julie Brown's 80s work continued with this movie. She co-wrote the script (based on an earlier novelty song she did) and played the role of Valerie's co-worker Candy. She performed a great musical number called "Brand New Girl", which turned a make-over for Valerie into a musical number complete with wild costumes and 80s choreography.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the performances of Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans as, respectively, the aliens Mac, Wiploc and Zeebo.
I enjoyed the scenes of their adapting to life on Earth. Probably the funniest of these scenes is when the trio watch TV in Valerie's house and do some channel-surfing. They come across clips from movies like "Rebel Without A Cause" and the original version of "The Nutty Professor", as well as commercials for shampoo and traveling to Finland. There are some great scenes involving the lines they learned. For example, when Valerie and Mac are hanging out at a bar, he asks her "Are we limp and hard to manage?". I didn't pick up on the double entendre when I first saw the movie, but several years later, I was able to laugh at it. Brown wrote a great script. She's easily one of the more underrated talents when it comes to 80s culture.
It was this year that I first saw one of my favorite 80s movies ever. The one...The only...
I was sleeping over at my best friend's house one Winter evening. Before we went to his house, we picked up some sour cream and onion potato chips (with onion dip) and then rented a movie. We were looking to see which one would be enjoyable. I decided that we should watch "Scarface". We did and we were blown away by it. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a "bad guy", but he's good at what he does. I loved the "Push It To The Limit" montage. It's my favorite Giorgio Moroder composition and it worked great with the scenes of Tony getting to the top of his game. The all-time best scene was (of course) the final shoot-out at the end, where Tony delievered one of the greatest lines of the 80s:
"SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!"
He comes flying out of his chamber. He just doesn't give a fuck. He's in effect and shooting to his last breath. If you fucked with him, you were fucking with the best.
This is a great movie. I'll always watch it whenever it's on.
In late Winter, I was looking for sites where I could share my love of the 80s. I was having emotional and psychological problems over at the WBC, so I decided to expand my horizons. I did that when I found a website called the 80sxchange. This was a community of people who loved the decade. I fit right in...At first. I adopted the moniker "outofplacechild", because that's the way I felt about being a young 80s fan. One of my first posts was a list of my favorite 80s musicians and groups. Since I had become so engrossed by 80s music by that time, the list had, like, 100 or so artists on there. When I said that that was "my short list", people laughed about it. Things went good for about 2 years or so, but eventually, in 2003, I alienated the people on there by not laughing at jokes about George W. Bush.
With the exception of a few months earlier this year, I've always been a supporter of the President. A lot of the people who were making these insults/jokes about him voted for him and supported him (At least they did at the time). I don't understand the concept of belittling the people you support. Maybe it's because I was told that all the people who insulted me in my school years were supposedly joking. If they actually liked me, then why did they make fun of my voice and my intelligence and the things I like and the things I say? Friends don't do that to friends...At least, I never did it to any of mine.
Due to my lack of humor, I earned a comparison to the character of Lt. Hauk (Bruno Kirby) in "Good Morning, Vietnam".
My apologies for not being able to find a picture of the late Mr. Kirby in GMV, but he looked like this in the movie, face-wise at any rate. The character of Hauk was a rather staid individual who had a respect for authority, which was the opposite of the attitude displayed by Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams). I felt insulted about the comparison, but in the end, it made some sense. I have a different sense of humor. I enjoy anti-humor and dirty jokes, but, unless I was really angry, I would never belittle my friends and family. I guess it's the matter of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I ended up getting disrespectful myself, but that was out of frustration. I felt pushed to the edge, so I walked in 2004. I tried coming back twice that year, but by the time I did, the boards had grown exponentially and it was a whole new ballgame. My quest for a retro board would continue, but we still have a while to go until we reach that part of the journey.
In February of 2001, my friend and I took another trip to Media Play. On that trip, I picked up a DVD of the best concert movie of the 80s: "Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense".
The movie was filmed during a series of concerts that the Talking Heads did to promote their album "Speaking In Tongues". I loved the songs that were used in this movie. I had actually heard some of the Talking Heads' work before, but this was my first opportunity to see the group themselves. They had a great style about them and great songs. The best song they did in the movie was one called "Girlfriend Is Better". It was about lead singer David Byrne boasting about his girlfriend. The visuals that accompanied this had him dancing around the stage in a big suit that moved just a second after he did. The scene is pictured above and words can't describe the awesomeness of that scene. I recommend buying the movie if you haven't seen it. If you haven't heard of the Talking Heads, then by the time this movie is over, I guarantee that you'll be a fan of the group.
There's another retro website I visit every so often. It's called RetroCrush, and there are a lot of pictures of retro female celebrities. I guess these are retro women that webmaster Robert Berry has found attractive. I developed one of my first retro crushes around this time. In this case, it was Joan Jett.
On various cassette sprees, I ended up purchasing albums she did like "Glorious Remanants Of A Misspent Youth" and "Up Your Alley". She looked good and had a great attitude. I really like tough women. I'm talking about the kind of women who carries a knife and drinks at least two beers at whatever bar she goes to. I've never been able to come across women like that in real life, but Joan was able to provide those ideas for me. My all-time favorite song by her is "I Love Rock 'N' Roll". I had heard it several times before 2001, but my fandom of Jett increased my love for the song. I still think that she looks good, but the last album I heard by her was "Fetish" in 1999, I believe. Still, she's one of the greatest rock women ever and there will always be a place in my heart for her.
Another female rocker I recall getting into around this time was Pat Benatar.
I had actually heard the song "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" while listening to classic rock stations while riding with both my dad and my best friend. The song reminds me of a line in "Beverly Hills Cop". Axel Foley (Murphy) gets in an argument with Taggart (John Ashton). An angry Foley says to him "What, you want some static?". That's what this song represents to me. It's somebody daring an enemy to cross them...At least to my interpretation. I also like her song "Shadows Of The Night". I saw the video for this on "Pop-Up Video" and I thought that it was cool. The video had Benatar, Bill Paxton and several others as fighter pilots in World War II making an attack on a Nazi building. The song went well with it. It has this comforting sentiment to it:
"We're running with the shadows of the night. So, baby, take my hand. It'll be alright. Surrender all your dreams to me tonight. They'll come true in the end".
For some reason, this seems to me like how soldiers in WWII would use songs like "Over The Rainbow" to inspire them and give them hope. It was just a thought that entered my mind.
On a February evening, my best friend and I visited another library just a little over the mountain. They had a used book section in the basement. There was a small selection of tapes down there, so I picked out a few. The one I recall the most was "Please" by Pet Shop Boys.
This album came from 1986 and had quite a few good songs on there. My favorite one on there would have to be "Two Divided By Zero". It was a song about pulling off an elaborate crime and then making a complex getaway, all the while dodging authorities who were tipped off by a traitor in their midst. When I listened to that song, I felt like I was in on the action...Like I was making the escape with them. The lyrics that stuck with me the most were these:
"We'll catch a plane to New York and a cab going down 'cross the bridges and tunnels straight into town. Tomorrow morning we'll be miles away on another continent and another day".
Those were some smooth lyrics they had going on in that song. It was almost cinematic in its' scope. I recall reading that the duo did a movie based around one of their albums. I should probably track that down.
In my music class, we would watch music-related movies on occasion. One of the ones we watched was "Amadeus".
I really liked this movie, because it made Mozart (Tom Hulce) look like an 80s rock star. An example that comes to mind is one scene where Mozart and a few of his friends are drinking wine and chasing women around. That isn't really any different from the dozens of metal bands who were partying in the 80s. I enjoyed the music of artists like Poison and Warrant and I had viewed enough of VH1's "Behind The Music" at that point to know that behavior like that can only lead to bad things. Another scene in this movie saw a declining Mozart watching a group of performers mocking one of his works. He looked on and laughed. It's sort of like how these metal bands ended up doing self-deprecating shtick on various humor shows that began almost as soon as the 80s ended. I think that I might've been the only person in our class who picked up on those similarities.
I bought my big bag of cassettes almost everywhere I went in 2001. One of those times was when we took a trip to Queens to visit some relatives of ours'. I recall listening to a "Greatest Hits" album from Sting's old group The Police. My favorite song on the album was "Wrapped Around Your Finger", which was originally on their 1983 album "Synchronicity".
Maybe it's because I've had so many issues with family and friends over the years, but I find myself drawn to songs about fucked-up interpersonal dynamics. Being as I had just broken up with my girlfriend a few months earlier, I found myself relating to the lyrics about a man trapped in an unloving and manipulative relationship with his girlfriend. The song ends with the man turning the tables on his girlfriend and becoming the dominant one in the relationship. In future relationships, I'll try to be dominant, but not in an abusive way. Instead, it would be in a way with self-confidence and self-assurance. Here's to it.
When I went down to Walt Disney World in 2001, I bought a lot of DVDs from the Virgin Megastore on Downtown Disney West Side. One of the movies I purchased was "The Terminator".
I had recieved "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" on DVD on Christmas Eve 2000, which was another first for me. I hadn't seen either of the "Terminator" movies, so I don't know why I decided to start with the sequel. Anyway, the closest I had come to seeing the first "Terminator" was the brief clip of Schwarzenegger saying the immortal line "I'll be back!" in the montage at the end of Disney-MGM Studios' "The Great Movie Ride". I took the initiative and purchased the original. This will once again make me sound like a heretic, but I prefer the original to the sequel. What I liked about the original was the action sequences. The scene where Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Kyle Reese are zooming through L.A trying to avoid the Terminator is great. I also liked seeing The Terminator crushed by a weight and hopefully being offed for good. Since I saw the sequel first, though, I knew that he meant it when he said "I'll be back". Either way, I'll take the original over the sequel any day. It may have had a smaller budget, but it had bigger thrills.
Before I graduated in 2001, there was a party for the students who would be leaving. Four BOCES students, myself included, were graduating that year. We were given a party, but the downside was that we had to include BOCES kids from grades lower than us. Because of that, we couldn't watch a movie that would be appropriate for the kids who would be graduating. Instead, we watched the live-action/animated version of "The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle". They said that it was done because the younger kids couldn't watch R-rated movies. Considering that I had seen movies like "The Bone Collector" and the Demi Moore version of "The Scarlet Letter" in the 11th grade, this seemed a little disingenous. I suggested that we watch "The Breakfast Club" instead.
John Hughes' magnum opus of 80s teen life, this movie was very inspirational. We were special education kids going out into the real world and that's a world that doesn't seem to make people like me feel welcome. I had purchased this movie in the 11th grade and I felt that it held an important message. It was the lyric in the song that the kids danced to near the end of the movie that could've given kids like us hope:
"We are not alone. You'll find out when your cover's blown, we're really not so different after all."
Pretty much everybody has issues that weigh them down, whether they be emotional, phsyical, mental, financial, romantic or whatever. We really are all the same, whether we want to admit it or not. I guess the teachers felt that the vulgarity obscured the issue, but I guess that when you start cracking the whip, you don't really understand the issues anymore. I had quoted "The Breakfast Club" earlier in this article, and the quote is still true. You may think that the kids have become worse, but you weren't that different from them in your younger days.
In June of 2001, I graduated high school. My troubles were finally over and I was going to go to college and everything was going to change for me, but not in the way I had anticipated. We still have to get through the Summer, though. We went to a resort in the northern Catskills called Glen Falls House every year up until 2001. The final year there saw every member of my family taking a separate room.
One of the things I did in my room was read a copy of "The Dirt" by Motley Crue.
I had mentioned Poison and Warrant several paragraphs up, but I really think that this group had the stuff. This group was one of the best metal bands of the 80s, and they teamed up to write the autobiography that began with the members' individual childhoods and ended around 2001, when the book was written. The group did a lot of crazy shit in the 80s and when you read this book, it's like you were right in the tour bus yourself. Some of it was funny (like at the beginning when Tommy Lee has sex with a fat woman so he can use her Jaguar XJS), while other parts of it were depressing (like Vince Neil killing a member of fellow hair metal group Hanoi Rocks in a drunk-driving accident), and still other parts disturbing (like Nikki Sixx getting shot up by a heroin dealer in a back alley in England). This was one of the best books I'd read up to that time. That wasn't the only book that would give me a look into the entertainment industry's twists and turns, though, but 2002 is yet to come
On that same trip, there was a video store in the area, so I took advantage of a deal they had and rented a few videos at one price for the duration of the trip. The one I remember the most was "Victor/Victoria".
It seems that once a year I'll pick out an 80s flick to view that seems rather unusual for my age. This was the movie for 2001. It was a very mature movie. The movie, set in 1930s France, was about a struggling actress/singer named Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews) who is rescued from poverty by a gay entertainer named Toddy (Robert Preston). They become platonic friends who help each other out. Looking for ways to make money, Toddy suggests that Victoria do a drag queen act. I know what you're thinking and so do they.
Victoria: "A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman?"
Somehow it works, and Victoria and Toddy become successful, although Victoria is having difficulty reconciling her two identities when a gangster named King Marchand (James Garner) falls in love with her/him/whoever.
I don't know what the impulse was for seeing this. I guess maybe I decided to watch it because I had seen clips from it on an American Film Institute special the year before. Either way, I ended up enjoying the movie. My favorite number from it is the song "Le Jazz Hot". It's an ode to classic jazz that Andrews really sells well. It's a stark contrast to her prim ways in "Mary Poppins", but I like it. I recommend seeing this movie if you can.
August came and with it, I was off to college. Unfortunately, things didn't work out. I thought that I would be as intelligent as I was in my school years, but it was a whole different ballgame in the collegiate world. I had to deal with people who were blaming us for the 9/11 attacks only days after it happened. I wasn't taking my medicine, and because of that I was having rapid mood swings.. I gained the freshman 15 and then some. I didn't have the skills to major in film. I had lots of trouble with women. I had asked this one girl out and I expected her to arrive at my room at a certain time. When she saw me talking to another woman, she thought that I was putting the moves on that woman. I wasn't, but because of that, I ended up gaining a reputation as a player, despite the fact that the only person I played with was myself.
It got so bad that I tried hanging myself. When I told this to another person in my dorm, they sent me home from college for several days. By the time I came back, I couldn't take it anymore. A month-and-a-half after I entered college, I dropped out. When I got home the evening I dropped out, I was so angry at myself that I shrieked at the top of my lungs "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF ANYMORE!". That got my mom furious. Sometimes, when I get angry, she'll threaten to send me back to Craig House. I was afraid of everything at that time. I was crying and frightened. It would take me a while to get back on my feet again, but in the meantime, I was living in the house without a job. I still had enough money left from my graduation party to set up another eBay account. I registered under the name "trytryagainoutofplacechild" and made my first purchase in a long time. I purchased a book called "Inside Oscar".
It was a book that chronicled every Oscar ceremony up to 1994. I really enjoyed reading the 80s chapters. It's interesting to read about what was going on at the Oscar ceremonies that were happening when I was just a tot. There were some great quotes in there that I use every so often. One of them came from Jack Nicholson, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "Terms Of Endearment". He ended the speech by saying "All you rock people down at the Roxy and up in the Rockies, rock on!". Only Jack could've pulled off a line like that. Another chapter was about the Oscar ceremony where "Rain Man" won. That was produced by the late Allan Carr, a flamboyant man best known for producing the movie "Grease". He wanted his ceremony to be a classy one, but it was totally tacky, from an opening number where Rob Lowe and an actress playing Snow White took a journey through a series of entertainment-industry-oriented production numbers to the fact that there were no hosts at all. Probably the worst thing about it, though, was that there were no performances of the Best Song nominees, but there was another production number which saw 80s teen stars from Corey Feldman to Savion Glover singing about how they were all going to be Oscar winners. I can't recall all of the people who were in the number, but none of them ever really stood a chance of winning an Oscar. This ceremony happened the year I graduated Kindergarten, and if the reactions I read were any indications, the ceremony was as mature as I was at the time.
Another item I purchased around this time was another Blake Edwards/Julie Andrews collaboration. This one was a Hollywood satire named "S.O.B".
The title stands for "Standard Operating Bullshit", which is what the main character in this movie has to deal with. The main character's name is Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan). He recently produced a family-friendly musical called "Night Wind" for his wife, the prim and pristine actress Sally Miles (Julie Andrews). When his movie bombs, Felix becomes suicidal, because it was his first flop ever. When an orgy is held in his house, Felix snaps out of his suicidal daze and becomes convinced that sex is what's needed for his movie to succeed. It all hinges on getting his wife to do a nude scene. This movie was hilarious. I enjoy seeing how Hollywood can get skewered by people who work there. It's a major effort to keep up with filmmaking trends, and I'd been reading entertainment magazines for years, so I could see how the industry had changed during my life. It's gone from mucho-macho action flicks to independent movies for the thinking man to animated movies with all-star vocal casts.
I turned 19 years old on December 22nd, 2001. 9 days later, it was New Years' Eve. My brother was hanging out with his friends that while my mom was hanging out with her friends. All my friends were busy doing stuff of their own that night, so I was all alone. My mom let me rent a movie she had been reluctant about me seeing up until that night. That movie was "9 1/2 Weeks".
This was probably one of the sexiest movies of the 80s, but it was somewhat pretentious as well. The movie was about an uptight woman (Kim Basinger) dealing with a kink-a-zoid rich man (Mickey Rourke). They engage in all sorts of wonderful adventures from doing it in public in a bed store to her crawling across the floor and picking up dollars. There was lots of vivid cinematography and editing, and Basinger looked really sexy in the movie. My mom wasn't paying too much attention to pop culture in the 80s as she was raising both me and my brother, but she had heard of this movie. She allowed me to watch it only because I needed something to do that night. I'm holding out on getting a DVD of this movie until they decide to release the version that was 3 hours long. This movie was one of the last MGM titles that Ted Turner acquired in 1986, but MGM might still own the longer cut. This is probably the same reason why we haven't seen "Solarbabies" come to DVd yet...Nobody knows who owns it.
I had read in Entertainment Weekly about a website called Saturday Night You. It's a site where people can submit their own sketches for an alternate take on what that week's episode of "Saturday Night Live" would be like. I started out good for that website, but eventually my quirks (obscure pop-culture references, right-wing politics, too many dramatic works) caused me to leave the site. One of my quirks was a love for Kathleen Turner.
I had no idea that she had gained weight or that her voice went from a smokey female voice to a nearly manly rasp. I was still under the impression that, although she had aged, she looked like she did around the time of the movie "Body Heat". My perceptions were eventually shattered by people making fun of my fandom of her looks and pointing me in the direction of what she looks like now. My illusions were ruined, but I can still think of the first time I heard her in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" or saw her in "The Man With Two Brains". She was one of the sexiest women in the 80s. I've only seen clips of "Body Heat", but every time I hear her say the lines "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man", I think that she could've easily made any man go slack-jawed in the 80s. When I discovered the modern Kathleen Turner, I felt odd. I thought that many people from the 80s were able to keep their youthful vibrance. I think that I need to stop looking for current pictures of actresses and actors from the 80s. I want my perceptions of them to remain.
As May was approaching, my Mom said that I should either get a job or get out of the house. I reluctantly applied for a job as a cart-pusher at Wal-Mart. I had objected because I didn't like their policy regarding albums with explicit language. When I was hired, I eventually learned that there was more to their music section than rock and rap.
I had one more free Sunday before I became a working man, though. On that Sunday, I watched "Poltergeist" on Turner Classic Movies.
Up until this point in time, I had only seen bits and pieces of this movie. I sat through the whole thing that afternoon and I was riveted. The special effects were great for 1982. My favorite one was when Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) was tugging at the white light with a rope. All of a sudden, this white beast comes out of the closet and lets out a mighty roar. That roar can still be heard at the beginning of every MGM movie that comes out today. I also liked the end when the thunder and lightning were crashing above the Freelings' house, and their daughter Dana (the late Dominique Dunne) steps out of a car and shrieks "WHAT'S GOING ON?".
Something I noticed about this movie is that the late Heather O'Rourke has sort of developed a cult following over the years.
I find it both loving and odd that she still has a devoted fandom to this day. I'll tip my hat to the late Ms. O'Rourke and say that she was a very good child actress, but I visit YouTube and look up "Poltergeist" videos every so often, and there are, like, 50 tributes to her. As I'm trying to figure out why she still has so many fans, I think of the old saying "Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse". I know it sounds horrid, but the way I look at it, Hollywood is a very fast-paced place, O'Rourke died when she was 13 and many people think that she was a beautiful young girl. I wonder if any of the other "Poltergeist" actors, who are living at the time of this writing, will get the same sort of tributes when they die.
A few months into my time at Wal-Mart, I made an off-the-cuff decision one evening to buy a CD called "Old School Funk".
R&B continues to be an important part of my musical life and this disc gave me even more reasons to like the 80s variant on that genre. There were a few 70s songs on there, but I ignored those and went for the 80s stuff instead. My favorite song from that album was a song by The Whispers called "Rock Steady". It's a song about how the lead singer had an empty life until he got a wonderful girlfriend. At this point, I hadn't had a girlfriend for a year-and-a-half, so a song like this gave me hope that I could eventually find a woman with whom I could "Rock it to the break of dawn". 4 1/2 years later, I'm still waiting for that girl to come along. Until then, I have songs like this to keep me going. The only problem is that I accidentally gave my mom a few of my "Old School" CDs when she wanted some party music a few years ago. She's been hooked on them ever since. The songs often make references to "getting freaky". As we all know, that's a synonym for "fucking", and I don't want to hear my mom singing those songs around the house. If she said that my singing was annoying and I stopped for her, why won't she extend the same courtesy to me?
I also purchased a tape at work around this time. It was a copy of "Freeze-Frame" by The J. Geils Band.
This 1981 album was their biggest mainstream success. It contained the song "Centerfold" as well as the title track, both of which made it big on the charts. I had first heard "Centerfold" when I went to the Rock 'N' Roll Beach Club at Walt Disney World's Pleasure Island in 1997. That trip was one of the last times I felt comfortable singing and dancing around my family, who had to go with me, being as I was too young to go on my own. I had purchased "Freeze-Frame" 5 years later and heard the song once more. I didn't think about Pleasure Island. I just thought that it was a very danceable song. Another song on that album was called "Flamethrower". It was an ode to a hot girl who was very out-going, but I figured that if you were to modify the lyrics, it could also be about a guy stepping out to have a good time.
I haven't typed the titles "Rock Steady" or "Flamethrower" in several months, and there's a reason for this. I had a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and I read about a very interesting website in a 2002 issue. The website was called The 80s Movies Rewind. It's a website where anybody can review 80s movies. Before I typed reviews for the site, I joined their message boards. I signed up under the name "rocksteadyflamethrower" and I made a very quick impression. I ended up gaining friends and respect on the website because of my 80s fandom. This respect lasted for about 2 years or so. You might be noticing a trend at this point.
In 2004, I started correcting people who were mentioning 90s topics in 80s forums. I got a lot of people angry because of this. I left the website in frustration in 2005, but came back when somebody from the site sent me an e-mail saying that I should just say that I was joking whenever I did the correcting. After some difficulties, I came back permanently, or so I thought. I constantly put up smilies and typed "JUST KIDDING" whenever I did my correcting, but nobody took it as a joke. In 2006, I announced that I was leaving again. I came back, though, and everybody was insulting me because of it. Even the people who were standing up for me were insulting me as well. I gave up on the correcting of people, but then somebody did some correcting of their own, and when I called them on it, they said that it was okay because they didn't do it too often, and that I was just jealous that they could "make a valid point without getting up everyone's noses". The final straw was a thread about "cheesy" lines in 80s movies. "Cheesy" is synonymous with "bad", and I wondered how you could like a movie, but think that it had bad dialogue. I thought that these people liked these movies, but if you like it, why would you insult it? I called "bullshit", and I caught Hell. Somebody who normally sided with me ended up siding with one of my enemies on the boards and that hurt my feelings. I then made a thread about why I had problems with the word "cheesy" and that pissed people off. One "lady" went as far as to say "Get out of the Pampers, young man, and stop being such an 80s Nazi". That harpy pissed me off so much that I logged off without any announcements or anything in July. I haven't been back since.
I've been guilty of using the word "cheesy" myself, but I've only applied it to movies that I thought were bad, no matter how much I liked them. For example, I enjoy the movie "Road House", but I don't think that it's a good movie (in my opinion), so I used the word "cheesy" to describe it. I wouldn't call "Die Hard" cheesy, but that's because I think it's a great movie (once again, in my opinion). The word "cheesy" is often used by critics who disparage the movies of the decade, and I think it's odd that fans of the decade would use the same terminology to describe movies that they supposedly think are good. I will never insult the movies that I think are good...I'm just not that kind of a person. If they can't understand that, that's their problem.
Despiet this, I still write reviews for the site, though, which brings us back to 2002. I started writing reviews for them in July. Right from the beginning, I've been diverse in my writings for the site. Don't believe me? Two reviews I wrote in my first year for the site were reviews of "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and "The Accused".
I've always been a fan of "The Muppets Take Manhattan", but I wasn't able to get a copy of it for myself until 2000. It was out of print for a time and copies of it fetched 50 dollars, if I remember correctly. When I purchased it on DVD (having upgraded from a VHS copy I bought in 2000), I enjoyed it all over again. What I ended up enjoying were the songs and the cameos. My favorite song from the movie was "You Can't Take No For An Answer". It was a very rocking song about how you need to stick by your dreams no matter what. Upon thinking about it now, it sounds a little like Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On" from "Beverly Hills Cop". My favorite cameo would have to be the one that Dabney Coleman did as an "agent" who turns out to not be who he says he is. I like that sequence because I actually knew one of the actors in it. One of the cops was played by one of my mom's co-workers at her real estate office. I had asked him about this movie a few years back, and he seemed a little awkward about it, but he eventually felt comfortable talking about it. That was pretty cool
I had purchased "The Accused" on DVD around this time as well. During my first eBay run, I had won this on VHS for the price of 3 dollars. I didn't really watch it until I purchased the DVD. This was one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. Seeing Jodie Foster's character get raped was frightening. This was one of the first 80s DRAMAS I had seen in my life and I'm glad that I did. It showed me how great of an actress Jodie Foster was. Up until that time, I had only seen her in "Silence Of The Lambs", so to see her in a victim role was quite different. She deservedly won an Oscar for this movie. It takes real guts to stand up under that kind of pressure, whether it's faked for a camera or done in real life. My hat is off to her. I gave both "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and "The Accused" rave reviews.
When staying at my cousin's house in July of 2002, I saw that she had digital cable. When watching it, I came across an awesome channel...At least it was in 2002.
When I saw VH1 Classic, I was amazed. This was awesome. I never got to experience MTV as Music Television first-hand, so this was like Heaven on Earth. They had so many 80s videos on their various shows that I was amazed. There was a whole program devoted to nothing but 80s videos. When I returned home, I told my mom that we have to get digital cable. I wanted to see VH1 Classic all that I could. We went digital in 2002, and for two glorious years, I got to experience music video television first-hand, with a whole shitload of 80s titles. The good times ended in 2004, though. They started considering 90s music as classic music that year, and I mentally aged about 20 years because of that. In 2005, they started playing more shows and less music videos. In 2006, they started airing commercials. FUCKING COMMERCIALS! VH1 Classic became just like MTV. My heart was broken. For Christ's sake, this is digital cable we're dealing with here. This is where the specialty channels are supposed to go. Damn, Viacom can piss me off sometimes. Oh, well, at least we The Tube Music Network...For now.
With all the money I was making, I started getting into buying books. I paid the first of what would be many visits to a New Jersey Barnes & Noble in 2002. I mostly bought used books about the entertainment industry. Many of these books centered around 80s personalities. One book I remember purchasing was called "High Concept: Don Simpson And The Hollywood Culture Of Excess".
The late Simpson (pictured on the left) and his production partner Jerry Bruckheimer (on the right), made such 80s classic as "Flashdance", "Top Gun" and the aforementioned "Beverly Hills Cop". Simpson was a real party-hardy type. One of the highlights of the book saw somebody remembering a meeting with Simpson back when he was head of Paramount Pictures. At that meeting, Simpson said to the interviewer something along the lines of "I'm going to snort some coke and abuse a screenwriter". He then dialed up somebody working on a movie for Paramount and berated him while sniffing coke. Another anecdote saw Simpson going on a Paramount coporate retreat. The thing is, he showed up two hours late and walked in wearing a "Maui Wowie" T-shirt while sloppily eating a cheeseburger. He ended up leaving the head position and becoming a producer for the company. There, he did interesting things like hold auditions for "Flashdance" in a hot tub in a Las Vegas hotel room. It was basically the casting couch writ large. It all ended with Simpson dying in the mid-90s due to drug issues, but it was a Hell of a ride. I recommend finding the book and giving it a read. You should be able to pick it up used.
2003: I was now 20 years old. I was doing okay at work. I still had some behaviorial issues I wouldn't work out for several years yet, but things were moving along at a decent clip. Around this time, they were airing reruns of "Miami Vice" on The National Network, in their waning days before they became Spike.
Thinking about watching the episodes, it seems like this show might've been influenced by "Scarface" more than MTV. Look at it these ways:
1.) Both "Scarface" and "Miami Vice" were set in Miami.
2.) Both "Scarface" and "Miami Vice" were produced by Universal (Pictures for the former, Television for the latter).
3.) Both "Scarface" and "Miami Vice" made extensive use of the montage.
4.) Most importantly, both "Scarface" and "Miami Vice" centered around the world of drugs. Okay, not every episode of "Miami Vice" revolved around drugs, but when thinking about this show, nobody recalls the episodes where Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Phillip Michael Thomas) dealt with crooked televangelists or modern-day pirates. They recall all the episodes involving that most 80s of all drugs, your favorite and mine (when it comes to plotlines for movies and TV shows)...COCAINE!
I really should pick up the season sets on DVD when I have the cash.
One of the artists I recall seeing on VH1 Classic around this time was a woman named Kate Bush.
She's a British singer who released some of the most interesting songs and videos of the 80s. For example, her 1982 album "The Dreaming" contained a song called "Sat In Your Lap". I had to view the video and listen to the song again on YouTube to remember it. It seems like a song about how knowledge can be dangerous in some ways. The video had Bush thrashing about in a white dress while what looks like Klansmen wearing dunce caps ride around on roller skates. There's also people dressed up in ram masks like something out of "The 10 Commandments". It's really trippy stuff. My all-time favorite video by her, though, would definitely have to be "Running Up That Hill". For a bit more on that, check out my article "I Love The 80s 3-D: 1985 Redux".
Another artist who I really started admiring around this time was Samantha Fox.
For my money, I don't think anybody sums up the sexual frankness of the decade better than she does. It's all in her songs, from "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" to "I Wanna Have Some Fun". I know what you're thinking. "It's her body that impresses you, right?". Well, you're only partially right. It's her music, too. She's a very good singer and both her looks and voice are still going stroing today. I had actually gotten several of her cassettes during my eBay run a few years prior, but I didn't really appreciate her work up until around this time. One of my favorite songs by her was one that wasn't necessarily sexy, but instead dangerous as well. It was a song called "I Surrender (To The Spirit Of The Night)".
I tend to like songs about the darkness of society and this song captured those feelings quite well. I find myself thinking of these lyrics:
"What will I find in this fantasy? If I go with you now, will you set me free?"
We've all been tempted to go off the beaten path in one way or another. When I say that, I mean flirting with the dark side of the human spirit, not trying something new. I was struggling to keep my sunny side up, but it wasn't always so easy. 2003 saw me scaring a woman in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. I was pushing carts with a determined look on my face, but when I glanced at her, she saw a scowl and a pair of fists. She angrily told me to stay away from her. I followed her and tried telling her that I'm not a bad guy, but she called me a "fucking freak" and told me to "stay the fuck away from her". As it turns out, this woman had been raped several years prior to this. I didn't know that, but I was angry at her remarks towards me. I guess that they were justified. I had no intention of hurting her, but when an incident like that happens, you always have to be on your guard. I never got the chance to make peace with her and this has been haunting me ever since.
One part of my disability is that I don't neccesarily understand the concept of personal space. I have this tendency to be a bother to various people, both men and women, who are engaged in their own activities. I'll accidentally interfere in a conversation or I'll interrupt somebody's reading, and they get pissed off at me. It's purely unintentional, but it's something I haven't been able to stop yet. I guess maybe I'm confused because people get into my personal space and expect me to live with it, but they get angry when I get into their personal space. For example, I'm told that it's not polite to say "excuse me" when 2 people are in the middle of a conversation. I'm told that I should wait my turn. At the same time, they say "excuse me" and interrupt MY conversations without my being able to get a word in edgewise. God, hypocrisy pisses me off.
Okay, back to the 80s:
In late Summer/early Fall I saw two noted 80s movies on TCM around this time. The two of them were "Private Benjamin" and "The Color Of Money".
The former was about a young Jewish American Princess named Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) who joins the army shortly after her husband dies on their wedding night. The latter was a sequel to the 1961 classic "The Color Of Money", picking up 25 years later with former pool legend "Fast" Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) taking a toy store worker named Vince Lauria (Tom Cruise) under his wing as they travel from the mid-West to Atlantic City, New Jersey for a massive billiards tournament. Both movies centered around the theme of discovering something inside you that you may have lost touch with along the way. In the former, Benjamin discovered how to be self-reliant. The army taught her that life isn't fun and games, and that she had to take charge. When it came to living spaces, I wasn't self-reliant, and I'm sadly still not, but I was learning that I had to be mature. Sometimes the world makes me want to shriek, and sometimes I do, but I think I'm in a better state emotionally than I was 3 years ago. In the latter, Eddie discovers that he still has a good game left within him, despite his state of being a drifter who sells alcohol. You really have to stay in the game and that's something I've been doing over the years. I occasionally say that I didn't know if I was going to live to see 20, but the fact that I'm typing this article speaks volumes about the determination I have. There were times in my younger days when I thought of killing myself, and to be upfront, I still think about it on occasion, but I haven't done it yet, and I'm determined to never do so. I'll be here for as long as God says so, and with His Blessing, that will be for a long time.
I also purchased one of my first heavy metal albums around this time. I purchased "Powerslave" by Iron Maiden.
I heard a lot of 80s pop metal over the years, but Iron Maiden was the real fucking deal. I'd read about them every so often on the 80sxchange and I had seen a few of their videos on VH1 Classic, but I hadn't really bothered to look up their work until this year. I looked through the CDs at Wal-Mart after I left work for the night and I decided to pick up a copy of "Powerslave". I was glad I did. This is one of my all-time favorite heavy metal albums...At least from what I've heard of the genre. My favorite song on the album would have to be "Aces High", an ode to the airmen who served England in times of war. When I listened to that song, I knew that artists like Poison and Warrant, enjoyable as they were, didn't really know how to rock. The guitar work on "Aces High" is amazing. It goes so fast that it's the musical equivalent of zooming through the skies and taking out as many Germans as you can. This was some good stuff.
To cap off this year, I purchased a copy of a really awesome book. It was entitled "The Hollywood Connection". It was written by a man named Rayce Newman who definitely knew his way around Hollywood.
Newman was a major drug dealer throughout the 80s. It's been a while since I last read the book, but the story that stuck with me the most wasn't a cocaine story, but instead one about how Robin Leach of "Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous" put some dessert on the underwear of the woman next to him and started masturbating her with it. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, indeed. The coolest thing about it is that my copy of it was autographed by Newman himself. He wrote this book as a tell-all in the mid-90s after he got out of the dealer business. It wasn't personally autographed, though. I got it through a seller on Alibris. I've been able to get several autographed books that way. I have a copy of a book written in the mid-80s about "Saturday Night Live" autographed by one of the co-authors, and I also have an autographed biography of 80s porn superstar Christy Canyon. I'm planning on purchasing an autographed copy of Rowdy Roddy Piper's autobiography off of his website. As you can guess, I'm as retro in my book tastes as I am in my other pop-cultural tastes.
I'm now 21 years old. I started getting into TV-on-DVD around this time. I've been waiting for various shows to come out over the years, and 2004 saw one show come out that I'd been looking forward to for a long time.
Yes, I decided to buy "Jem And The Holograms: Season 1". This was another one of those "just for the Hell of it" purchases I do every so often. I had actually heard of the show several years earlier, and I had written a few of the characters in a sketch I did for Saturday Night You, but I hadn't properly seen it until 2004. I thought that the show was well-written. My very episodes were the "Starbright" arc. Those episodes saw Jem And The Holograms get to work on the movie they signed contracts for when they won the Battle Of The Bands against The Misfits in the first season. The Misfits use all sorts of tricks from financial wizardry to assassination attempts to get the Holograms out of sight for good. Compilcating all of this is the fact that, during a brief walk-out, the Holograms discover that one of the Starbright girls needs eye surgery.
This show has been said by many to be an animated soap opera, but I think that's sort of damning it. I think that it was very well-written both in speaking and song. I liked how the songs advanced the plot. I can't really recall many from the "Starbright" arc, but one of the few that comes to mind is a song about teaming up to get things done. That's another theme in 80s movies. When people group up, whether they be mismatched cops or a group of kids looking to improve their lots in life, they really can shake things up. It's nice to know that there are people out there who will take a bullet for you if needed. I have very few of those, but I value those people with all my heart.
2005: I'm now 22 years old and firing on all cylinders with my 80s fandom. I've decided to expand my range by trying to write for other websites. Unfortunately, I was always turned down. There was light at the end of the tunnel, or so I thought.
I'd been following Jim Hill's writings for various Disney websites for years. I was amazed at the depth of his Disney knowledge. I wanted depserately to be a part of his website, so I sent in a letter asking to be a part of the site, along with examples of my work for the Rewind. A man named Cory Mitchell recieved them and we talked about my possibly working for the website. He offered me the position of book reviewer and that excited me. Before that, though, I wrote what I thought would be my first piece for the website. The piece was about one of my favorite songs from "The Little Mermaid" and its' variants. I sent it to Cory, who then sent it to Jim. I was told that the scope of my piece was too narrow. I then tried sending bits and pieces of an article on "Tiny Toon Adventures" and I was told that they weren't that good. They stopped returning my e-mails shortly after that.
Was I disappointed? Damn straight I was. I let the piece lay dormant and I continued my writings for the Rewind. One day, I was paying a visit to I-Mockery and I saw something interesting.
Sorry for plugging the competition, but stay with me on this one. I was looking at their video game review pages and I visited the NES section. I looked up a review of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" video game and I saw that it was conducted in the form of an interview with Freddy Kruegger. I looked at the feedback for the article and I saw somebody mention this website. Apparently, the review on there was eep!'s RetroJunk review of the game. I decided to pay a visit to this website and I liked what I saw. I then noticed that anybody could submit articles for this website. I joined under the name "Captain Caps" and I pulled up my "Little Mermaid" piece. I retooled it and posted it to this website under the title "7 Variations On A Mermaid's Lament".
This was the beginning for me. I did the article on "Part Of Your World", and in a way, I feel it reflects my coming to this site. After years of searching, I finally felt like I was part of a world...A world where my quirks, my personality and my 80s fandom could be appreciated without fear of revocation or insults. It was, and is, a great feeling.
In July of 2006, I started writing this article for RetroJunk. I had no idea that it would take me almost 3 months to complete. Over the course of that time, memories of my retro past came flooding back like a raging river. I had no idea how my 80s fandom was so deeply ingrained into my life. I feel that the decade has helped me through some tough times. Through emotional, physical and mental stress, the entertainment of the 80s were always there to help me feel good and look deep inside myself. Whenever I watch "Follow That Bird" or "The Little Mermaid" or "The Breakfast Club" or "Scarface", I feel refreshed. Whenever I listen to "Weird" Al Yankovic or Madonna or Iron Maiden, I feel soothed. Whenever I catch an Eddie Murphy episode of "Saturday Night Live" or an episode of "Miami Vice", I feel relaxed. Don't get me wrong. I like stuff from before and after the 80s as well, but my memories, my heart and my soul will always lay with this totally cool, fuckin' A awesome decade.
Now go outside, grab a Jolt Cola and cut "Footloose"!
Thanks so much for reading.
-John "Caps 2.0" Kilduff