Monday, September 29, 2014

The Alphabet Game: 1980's Edition...Totally

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This edition is all about that late great decade, when I became a man, the 1980's. Have fun...

A is for Allison Reynolds - Out of the five archetype characters in John Hughes' 1985 teen classic, The Breakfast Club (yeah, I said classic!), the one with which I can most identify, is Ally Sheedy's basketcase character, Allison Reynolds. Granted, I had a pretty big crush on Ally Sheedy back in the day, but really, her character is the one that most closely resembles myself at that age. I definitely wasn't the athlete or the princess, and even though I had one, I was never the brain in high school. I may have had aspirations to be the criminalistic Bender, but let's face facts, I am now, and will always remain...a Duckman. Wait, what? Oh sorry, wrong John Hughes film. Yeah, I'm the basketcase.

B is for The Brat Pack - And speaking of The Breakfast Club, howzabout that Brat pack!? Named (obviously) after Frank, and Dino, and the Rat Pack of the 1950's & 1960's, this was a gaggle of young stars from the 1980's. The core of the group was made up of Breakfast Clubbers, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and the lovely Miss Ally Sheedy, as well as Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, and Andrew McCarthey. Other fringe members include Jon Cryer, Emilio's brother, Charlie Sheen, Mare Winningham, Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, John and Joan Cusack, and even Tom Cruise. There was interdating and public drunkenness and lotsa tabloid fodder to be had. In more recent days, actors such as Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and others, have tried to recreate the so-called magic in their own Frat Pack identities, but let's not go there.

C is for Chess King - Back in my high school days (1981 - 85) was a time of great fashion. It was truly a fashion forward kinda time. Looking back, it was totally ridiculous...totally. At the time though, these early 80's fashions were the bomb-diggity. And ya know, no matter how ludicrous we looked, and we did look quite ludicrous, the fashions of the late 80's got even worse. But anyway, these aforementioned fashions could be gotten at a certain group of stores in any local mall. The big one was a place called Chess King. There were others, like Merry-Go-Round, but Chess King was my fave. From my overly zippered pants (more on those at the end of this post) to my skinny silk ties to all the Adam Ant, New Order, Ducky Dale looking clothes I could find, the early 1980's and Chess King was the place to be. Hey, at least I didn't wear parachute pants. Oh wait, yes I did. More on that later, as well.

D is for the DeLorean - For anyone who grew up in the 1980's, John DeLorean was that eccentric rich guy who made that crazy looking car where the doors opened up like wings unfolding, and was later put on trial for cocaine smuggling, for which he got off due to entrapment charges against the feds. Of course the DeLorean became much better known, and longer lasting (really, who actually remembers John DeLorean!?), as Doc Brown's time machine in the Back to the Future franchise. Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

E is for Eddie Murphy - Back in 1980, the original cast of Saturday Night Live, including creator/producer Lorne Michaels, were gone from NBC. In their place was a brand new cast, made up of comics such as Gilbert Gottfried, Denny Dillon, Tim Kazurinsky, Joe Piscopo, and Charles Rocket, who was meant to be the new break-out star of the show. Oh yeah, and midway through the season, this young featured player made his debut. Some guy by the name of Eddie Murphy. Yeah, we all know the rest. Big star in the 1980's. Lackluster guy in the 1990's. Pretty much a joke nowadays. Remember when Eddie Murphy was funny? Yeah, me too. That's the Eddie Murphy we are talking about here.

F is for Frogger - The 1980's were a time of great classic video games. Long before the ultra realistic action of today's games, the early video games from Atari and Coleco, Sega and Activision, were my kinda thing. One of my faves was Frogger. Introduced into arcades in 1981, this was a game where you had to get your frog across dangerous terrains like highways and rivers. I am sure kids of today would look down on games like Frogger, with its still-basic graphics, and no hos to punch in the face, but call me a relic, call me what you will, I prefer these games of old to the new Calls of Duty and Worlds of Warcraft out there today. I'll let ya in on another one of my faves a little bit later on the list.

G is for Ghostbusters - If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? If it's somethin' weird, an' it don't look good, who ya gonna call? If you're seein' things runnin' through your head, who ya gonna call? An invisible man sleepin' in your bed, oh who ya gonna call? I think we all know the answer to these questions. There's no real reason to go on. If you don't know, then I don't wanna know you. I ain't afraid o' no ghost!

H is for the Hair Bands - While I was busy listening to bands like Depeche Mode, Joy Division, and R.E.M., many of my generation, those of a slightly younger bent though, were taking in the hair bands that began popping up in the mid 1980's. My lovely wife was one of these slightly younger generational compatriots, but this was well before I knew her. Still to this day, when some random hair band song comes on the radio, she tests me, and I lose more often than I win. Sure, I can easily recognize a Poison song or a whatnot, but really, outside of certain big one time hits, everyone from Winger to Warrant to White Lion to Great White to Stryper to The Bullet Boys to Jackyl to Slaughter to Slayer to pretty much everyone else, sounds pretty much the same to me. Gotta admit though, I really do enjoy Once Bitten, Twice Shy, and turn it waaay up when it comes on the radio. Oh yeah!

I is for Iran-Contra Affair - To get off of the pop culture stuff, and into some real life action, I thought I would include this 1980's political scandal. Yeah, poor hapless Ollie North got the shaft here, but let's face facts, this was Reagan and Bush Sr. who pulled this bullshit off. And still, to this day, people love Ronnie Reagan. I mean, granted, these are mostly stupid people, but still, he was the guy who destroyed the US economy. Granted, that is a whole separate issue from the Iran/Contra cover-up, but I still needed to rant about it.

J is for The Jacksons - Tito, Marlon, Jackie, Jermaine, Michael, & Randy. These are the Jackson, I mean 6. Yeah, Randy joined later. Anyway, the 1980's is when little Michael came into his own. Thriller was one of the biggest albums ever. Ever! And hey, Janet even got in on the music scene in the later 1980's. And ya know what? I actually saw the Jacksons live. It was back in the Summer of 1984, during their Victory Tour. I may have also owned a couple of Michael Jackson replica jackets as well, but more on that later on. Granted, I may have been heavy into the New Wave, but I also owned Thriller on vinyl, so take that however you wish.

K is for Kenny Loggins - Known as the King of the Soundtracks in the 1980's, Loggins, upon splitting from ex-partner, Messina, had hits from a slew of movie soundtracks, including most famously, Caddyshack, Footloose, and Top Gun. He's alright. Don't nobody worry 'bout him.

L is for Laser Tag - Didjya know that the first laser tag arena opened in 1984? Well, it did. In Dallas, Texas. Now I have never played laser tag myself (I should really remedy that someday soon) but since the sport was born in the 1980's, and this is a post about the 1980's...well, you get it. Now let's move on to one of my early 1980's crushes...

M is for Martha Quinn - When MTV made its debut on August 1, 1981, the age of the DJ had morphed into the age of the VJ. You see, for all you kids out there, there was once upon a time, when MTV actually played music videos. This was back when MTV stood for Music Television. Now it officially stands for nothing, just like AMC, formerly American Movie Classics, now with no movies to speak of on that channel, also stands for nothing, officially. But back in the day, when the channel was pretty much 24/7 music videos, the channel had VJ's (video jockeys as opposed to radio's disc jockeys) who introduced the videos. My favourite VJ in those early days was the cute as a button, tomboyish Martha Quinn. So popular, Martha was voted the best VJ in MTV history by readers of Rolling Stone, and in a 2011 look back at MTV, Dwight Garner recalled: "Every sentient straight male in the country developed a schoolboy crush on Martha Quinn, one of the first V.J.'s, fresh out of New York University and so cute she could make your cranium detonate." Yup. Sounds about right to me. The girl even has a 1980's video trivia game named after her. Nowadays Martha can be heard on Sirius XM Radio, giving us the hits of the 1980's. And today, at 55, Martha is still cute as a button.

N is for New Wave Music - New Order. Joy Division, Devo. Blondie. Depeche Mode. Talking Heads. The Smiths. Split Enz, Elvis Costello. Granted, the term New wave was first used to describe early NYC punk bands like The New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground, and later the Ramones, but those acts most associated with the term are the post punk and early synth pop acts of the early 1980's. This was the music I listened to in high school. Sure, thanks to my mother and my aunt, I grew up on a steady diet of The Beatles and 1960's music, and I still love that stuff to this day, but when I came into my own, so to speak, it was the New wavers of the early 1980's, as well as New wave-esque bands such as R.E.M. and The Cars. Yeah yeah, Michael Jackson and Prince were in there as well, and even Madonna, but New Wave was my meat and veg for my high school years. Totally...totally.

O is for One Hit Wonders - And now that we have discussed both the birth of MTV and the New Wave movement of the same period, we should probably mention the one hit wonder. Yes, there have always been one hit wonders, but thanks to things like MTV, the one hit wonder exploded in the 1980's. Anyone and everyone could get a video on MTV back in the day, and many of these were the proverbial flash-in-the-pans. Flashes-in-the-pan? Anyhoo, many of these one-hit wonders perhaps deserved to never be heard from again, but some were quite good, at least once. 99 Luftballons from Nena or Soft Cell's Tainted Love or Come On Eileen from Dexy's Midnight Runners or Take On Me from A-Ha, were among my personal faves.

P is for Parachute Pants - Okay, okay. There were these pants from the 1980's called parachute pants. They were made from what seemed to be parachute material. Many had zippers, some were baggy MC Hammer style, most were the 1980's version of skinny jeans. Well, yeah, we still had skinny jeans, but they weren't made of seeming parachute material, so they were not as cool. Oh, and yes, I owned several pair, probably bought at Chess king or Merry-Go-Round. Mine were not the aforementioned MC Hammer things, but merely shiny, multi-zippered parachute pants. But more on the zippered aspect a bit later. I owned several pair of these actually. I had 'em in red and bright blue, and I think black as well. Yeah, I was cool. At least that is what I tell myself thirty years later.

Q is for Q*Bert - Earlier I talked about Frogger. Now here is another fave video game from the 1980's. Q*Bert, which was released to arcades in 1982, was a game where you had to lead the fuzzy, curly-que titular Mr. Bert, through a pyramid of mazes and towers and what not. Not only was this game a blast, but Q*Bert was quite vocal in his hopping about. There were other games such as Pac-Man, Missile Command, and later Tetris and Super Mario, but Q*Bert was an early fave...and he is an easy fit into the Q portion of our program.

R is for Rubik's Cube - I believe it's a rule that no one can ever speak or write about the 1980's, without mentioning this iconic puzzle cube invented by Hungarian architect and inventor, Erno Rubik. Actually created in 1974, the Rubik's Cube was sold to Ideal Toys in 1980, and the rest is pop culture history. Not only did this 3D puzzle cube become a staple of 1980's culture, but there were (and still are) tournaments. Now I became rather proficient in solving the cube, but my prowess was nowhere near the ability of some of these cubers. Just crazy fast. Anyhoo, the Rubik's Cube can pretty much be seen in every single 1980's based TV show or movie. That's really all you have to do to make people realize when your story is taking place. Easy as that.

S is for Square Pegs - Running for just one season back in the 1982-83 TV season, the mostly forgotten Square Pegs (one of 101 shows in my upcoming Forgotten TV book) was one of my favourite shows. Revolving around a group of high school freshman ( I was a sophomore during its run), this sitcom was the precursor to a show like Freaks and Geeks. There were the popular kids and there were the outcasts. The show featured future stars Tracy Nelson, Jami Gertz, and Sarah Jessica Parker, as popular valley girl, annoying preppy, and four-eyed nerd girl, respectively. My fave on the show though, was Johnny Slash, the oblivious new wave kid played by Merritt Butrick. Johnny Slash was a totally different head...totally.

T is for Totally...Totally - And since we had the perfect segue, let's talk about...talking. Every generation has their own slang, their own speak, if you will, and mine was no different. From rad to awesome to tubular to grody to the max, the Gen Xers of the 1980's had their own unique form of communication. We were the generation that gave the world terms like bangin' and fugly and homegirl and airhead and bitchin' (Bitchin' Camaro!!) and skate betty and even space cadet. We were the coolest. Totally...totally.

U is for USA! USA! USA! - The 1980's were a politically charged time period. With Ronald Reagan taking up residence in the White House, the start of the Me Generation, where everyone was expected to pull up their collective boot straps and stop "sucking" off from the government teat. Yeah, well this Ayn Rand bullshit led to a ruined economy and the gap between the rich and the poor growing to the astronomical proportions it stands at today. Before the 1980's, people could work a job and live a life. After Reagan's diddling with his trickle down nonsense, people now need several jobs just to make ends meet. Gee, thanks Ronnie. Anyway, to get away from the rant, this was also a time of renewed gung ho patriotism. Everyone was chanting USA USA USA!!! At one point, when setting up his re-election campaign in 1984, Reagan had asked Bruce Springsteen for the use of his Born in the USA song to rally the voters. Seriously, Ronnie? Did you even listen to the lyrics of the song? Really? Needless to say, the Boss said no way Jose. The end. Well, sadly enough, not the end of stupid blind and deaf jingoism, but the end to this section of our little ole Alphabet Game here.

V is for Voodoo Economics - Yeah, here I go again on Ronnie Reagan and his insane middle class-hating policies. I just couldn't stop with that last one. This term, by the by, was handed to Reagan by George Bush, during their 1980 debates. Of course once Ronnie took good ole Georgie-pie as his running mate, then the future Veep had no problems with an economic plan that would destroy the middle class. But hey, there's more than enough political ranting on the internet, and from both sides, mind you, so I should probably just get back to the pop culture bent that is my blog. I guess I could've talked about the classic VHS tape here. Oh well. Too late now. So let's move onto the advertising of the 1980's, shall we?

W is for Where's the Beef!? - Anyone who grew up when I did, should remember tiny octogenarian Clara Peller, yelling "Where's the Beef!?" in Wendy's commercials. The ad, taking a stab at the rather petite competition burgers of places like McDonald's and Burger King, debuted in 1984, and Clara and her catchphrase became something of a thing.

X is for The X-Men - When the X-Men came around in 1963, they were not all that big. In fact they were canceled (sorta) after issue #66, The series did go on through issue #93, but these were just reprints of older stories. Then in 1975, the X-Men were triumphantly brought back in Giant Size X-Men #1. After this, the X-Men were the cool kids in the neighbourhood. Throughout the 1980's, the title became the biggest title in comic books. The 1980's version of the X-Men, retitled Uncanny X-Men, and written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, and others, was the title during its most creative and its greatest period. Starting off the decade with the Dark Phoenix Saga, and introducing such characters as Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, Longshot, Rogue, Rachel Summers, Jubille, as well as new villains Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, and Apocalypse, and expanding with The New Mutants, X-Factor, Alpha Flight, Excalibur, and even a solo Wolverine title, as well as events such as Mutant Massacre and the fall of the Mutants, the 1980's was the decade of the X-Men.

Y is for Yoda - Come on, you didn't think I could get through this post without bringing up Star Wars, or more specifically, The Empire Strikes Back, or even more specifically, Yoda. Nowadays, in those so-called prequels (not that those films actually exist!!) Yoda is done all digitally, but back in 1980, he was all puppet baby, all freakin' puppet. Handled by Frank Oz, the guy that spent thirty years with his hand up Miss Piggy's ass, Yoda was the master Jedi who taught Luke Skywalker everything he knows. He's also the Jedi who changed Luke from whiny little bitch to master Jedi knight. Good for you. Oh, and Weird Al Yankovic (who could've easily fit into this slot as well) even did a parody song, riffing off of The Kinks' Lola. Ah, the nostalgia for an all puppet Yoda.

Z is for Zippers - Yeah, zippers. I toldjya I was going to get back to these at the end. You see, zippers were a big thing in 1980's fashion. All my pairs of parachute pants had multiple zippers up and down the legs, serving no purpose other than to be zippers. There were no pockets when you unzipped them. Just zippers. I owned a couple of Michale Jackson replica jackets as well. These were also full of zippers. I also had this one pair of pants that were a medium blue, with two zippers down each leg, when unzipped, showed a bright red or orange or yellow (I forget which) inside. So you could wear these as standard blue pants or striped pants. See how versatile were were in the 1980's? Yeah, anyhoo, zippers were everywhere back then. It was kinda crazy. But enough about all these zippers. This may be the end of this post.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Now here's a pic of Max Headroom, because I felt bad leaving him out of this post. En-en-en-j-j-joy!!


  1. I am glad max Headroom is here. I watched that show diligently. I was in my 20's during the 80's and a couple of years are kind of vague which means they were great! I had harem pants and stirrup pants made a comeback.I loved Yoda much better as an actual puppet and secretly I think he loved Jim Henson's hand up his ass. This was also the horrible time of the stupid, ugly cabbage patch dolls. This was also the era of John Hughes

  2. Having grown up in the early 80's, I can safely say there is almost nothing that I miss from the 80's.

    Father Nature's Corner