Back in 1997, a Russian exchange student e-mailed me the "88 ways to tell if you're stuck in the 80's," and asked me to explain them, since she knew nothing of American culture. I typed up the text in italics and sent it back to her.1. your fondest childhood memory is when Skippy got his head stuck in the banister
This is a reference to a sitcom called "Family Ties." It was one of the most popular sitcoms on the air, and it made Michael J. Fox a star. Unfortunately he has been unable to get a part that is significantly different then the role he played on the show.
2. you relax by putting on your leg warmers and dancing to the "Footloose" soundtrack
Footloose was a movie about dancing. It was a popular film, and the soundtrack included songs by musicians who nobody listens to anymore...
3. you think the Two Coreys are "totally awesome"
Corey Feldman is one of them, Corey Haim is the other. "Totally awesome" was slang for saying something was "cool"
4. you're still bitter that Wham! broke up
Wham! was a band that played 80s music. George Michael was in it. He was the good one. (So you know they couldn't have been that good)
5. Punky Brewster is your hero
Punky Brewster was a sitcom about a grouchy old man who adopts an orphaned girl. There was a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon based on the show. The actress who played Punky is about my age (born in either 1976 or 1975) and I had a HUGE crush on her at the time. She has since had breast reduction surgery because of back problems.
6. you type all of your term papers on a Commodore 64
Commodore 64 was a computer. It had a green CGA screen. You can't find software for it anymore.
7. you still resent your parents for not installing a dumbwaiter in your house like Webster's
Webster was a sitcom about a white football star and his wife adopting the black son of a deceased friend. Webster was played by a young man who turned out to be a midget, which means he's still about as tall as he was when he was in the show. This was used by the producers to keep the "cuteness" appeal of the show long after the actor was too old to play the part. In one of the houses the family lived in, there was a dumbwaiter that connected the floors, and Webster used it as a personal elevator. This can give you an idea about how small he really was.
8. the only video games you play are Frogger and Pac Man
Frogger was a game in which you tried to get a frog across a pond or a road, while avoiding cars and the water. Pac Man was one of the first "arcade" games. I have a copy of the PC version if you ever want to play it. It looks just like the original.
9. you're building your own Clockwork Smurf
The Smurfs were little blue creatures that lived in Medieval England. There were magic, monsters and evil wizards. It was a Saturday morning cartoon show, and lasted for several years. They generated a massive marketing frenzy with numerous smurf-inspired products from stuffed Smurfs to figurines. Clockwork Smurf was a robotic Smurf built with Medieval Technology.
10. your summer attire is Jellies and Jams
Jellies are plastic sandals, and Jams were a bizarre form of shorts for boys, sort of like kool-ots.
11. A-Ha's "Take on Me" is still your favorite video
"Take on Me" was a popular song, and the video is actually pretty good.
12. you consider yourself truly, truly, truly outrageous, much like Jem and the Holograms
Jem was another cartoon, and she had a band called the holograms. The lyrics to the opening credits included the words "Jem, truly, truly outrageous."
13. you wonder why more people don't wear high heels, Jordache jeans, and lacy ankle socks
These were fashion trends popular among high schoolers during the 1980's.
14. you call all motorcycle cops "Ponch"
Ponch was a motorcycle cop on the TV show C.H.I.P.S. He has made guest appearances in music videos and movies portraying the character. For example, he had a cameo in "Loaded Weapon 1"
15. every time you go to the beach you look for Snorks
Snorks were an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Smurfs. They lived underwater, and had more internal conflicts.
16. you're still upset Madonna and Sean broke up
Madonna the "material girl" singer, and Sean Penn used to be an item.
17. you know who Stinky Sullivan is
He was the "Weird and clueless best friend" in the formulaic sitcom "Growing Pains."
18. you work out with "Get in Shape Girl"
This was a workout set designed for kids ages 7 to 12, and included a pathetic video, light plastic "weights" and a pole with a long ribbon attached. It is probably responsible for more bulimic and anorexic young women today then Barbie.
19. you want to be Molly Ringwald when you grow up
The single hottest actress ever to live. I still love watching "Breakfast Club," and "Pretty in Pink."
20. you enjoy dancing on the ceiling and wearing your sunglasses at night
These are references to the videos for two popular songs.
21. you know who Loverboy is
An 80's "New Wave" Band.
22. you think there should be a Kids Incorporated original cast reunion
Kids Incorporated was a show in which pree teens mutilated popular songs in a pastel restaurant with an entirely juvenile clientele. whenever one of the members of the group came near puberty, he/she was quietly replaced with a younger singer.
23. you think of Janet Jackson as "that girl who used to date Willis"
Janet Jackson used to date some guy named Willis....
24. you can sing the theme song to Small Wonder
Small wonder was a sitcom about an inventor who builds a robotic daughter who doesn't act very human, yet convinces most people she is flesh and blood.
25. every time you see a fountain you want to dance around it and yell "Fame!"
Fame was a movie that spawned a TV series. People danced around a fountain in the opening credits to the TV show.
26. you still have a shoe box full of Garbage Pail Kid cards
Garbage pail kids were disgusting rip-offs of the cabbage patch kids. They usually sported open wounds, mucus, severed limbs and other gruesome features. Each one had a personal theme, a way in which they were specially disgusting.
27. you petition Congress to make "Born in the USA" the national anthem
Born in the USA was a hit song by Burce "The Boss" Springsteen.
28. you still use your Snoopy Sno-Cone machine
This device was shaped like Snoopy's Doghouse, (Snoopy is a character from the Peanuts comic strip, animated movies, and animated TV specials, not to mention an Emmy award winning TV show) You put ice in the top, turned a handle to shave the ice, and poured flavoring on the shaved ice, eating it as candy.
29. you know it's not "comma, comma, comma" it's karma
Another song reference. This one by Culture Club and it's lead singer Boy George. Many Conservative Christians were up in arms over his gender bending attire, even though, compared 80's hair bands, all he really did was wear extensions and a little more eyeliner.
30. you stay up nights wondering what Bastian's mother's name was in "The Neverending Story"
"The Never Ending Story" was a popular film about a boy reading a book, only to discover that he was part of the story. The name of his dead mother is revealed as vitally important, but that gives away the plot. No one's really sure what the name is though because he screams it during a storm, making it unintelligible.
31. you have nightmares about the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak
This character was the villain on the cartoon show "Strawberry Shortcake" which produced a massive quantity of dolls and play-houses. She persists to a much reduced degree of popularity to this day.
32. you still practice your Care Bear Stare
The care bears were a cartoon show. Each one had a special symbol in their chest, and they could make the symbols do special things by "staring" at the villain in a special way. The more care bears staring, the more powerful a foe they could defeat.
33. you know that girls just wanna have fuh-un
This is a reference to a popular Cindi Lauper song. The video features a scene where a massive number of people pour into Cindi's bedroom for a party. (Think Groucho Marx to get the idea)
34. you can name all The Wuzzles
The Wuzzles were a cartoon show about an island where everything was a combination of two things. One character was Bumbelion, part bumblebee, and part lion.
35. you harbor a secret dream of being slimed by Alistair
This is a reference to the TV show "You Can't Do That on Television" Allanis Morisette was once an actress on this show. Alistair was one of the characters. Whenever someone said the words "I don't know" green slime fell from the sky, covering them. They also got drenched with water whenever they said "water." This was the first big show of the Nickelodeon network, and the slime has since become a trademark for Nickelodeon.
36. you can do the Safety Dance
Another New Wave Song Reference.
37. in your spare time you are writing "The Breakfast Club 2"
The breakfast club was a movie about a group of high schoolers in detention hall. It's a much better movie then the description I just gave would lead you to believe. I recommend renting it. Molly Ringwald is HOT!
38. you like to "connect the dots, la la la la!"
One of the many recurring phrases used by Pee Wee Herman in his children's TV show. The show was canceled when he was busted in an adult movie theater doing what amny people later claimed they "thought was part of the cover charge."
39. someone mentions Jennifer Beals and you don't say "Who?"
40. your prized possession is a collection of "Return of the Jedi" Shrinky Dinks
The third chapter of the star wars trilogy came out, and one of the products that bore the characters' likenesses were shrinky dinks. Shrinky-dinks were large paper drawings that you cut out, and put in the oven. Once they'd been in the oven for a while, the five inch cut-out would shrink to half an inch. I never understood the appeal of these things and imagine they were a huge fire hazard..
41. you know whose number is 867-5309
Another song reference. In the song reference it was the phone number of a girl named Jenny. The massive number of people who began calling the number is the reason the 555 exchange was set aside for use by the entertainment industry.
42. you get depressed thinking about Anthony Michael Hall's career
One of the stars of ""16 Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" he turned down the starring role in "Ferris Bueler's Day off" despite the fact that the director had written it expressly for him. Some other guy got the part and became a huge star, while Hall drifted in obscurity, his biggest role being as Bill Gates in a TNT made for cable movie.
43. you're starting a write-in campaign to MTV to bring back Remote Control
Remote control was a show on MTV that has since been canceled. It was on during the days when MTV's programming consisted primarily of music videos.
44. you drink Diet Coke because Max Headroom told you to
Max Headroom was a computerized pitch-man for Diet Coke. The character was so popular he got his own hour-long TV show. The show used more computer graphics then had ever been employed on TV before, but only lasted a couple of seasons. The world had yet to become cynical enough to accept the show.
45. you consider Jo vs. Blair the major philosophical conflict of the 20th century
Jo and Blair were characters on "Facts of Life" a sitcom that started off being about a girls' prep school. The show stayed on the air for a VERY long time. Jo and Blair, although true friends, never stopped bickering and insulting each other. Jo was a "tom-boy" from the wrong side of the tracks and Blair was from a family that was probably a member of the Illiminati.
46. you have a duck phone and ride around your house on a little train
The sitcom "Silver Spoons" was about a rich kid and his father. The family fortune was based on toy manufacturing, and as a result there was a small train in the house used to get around the first floor, and a phone shaped like a duck. These were some of the more mild peculiarities of the house and its inhabitants.
47. you want to be one of the Solid Gold Dancers
Solid Gold was a "Soul Train" type show, featuring popular music and scantily clad women dancing to it. These women were called the Solid Gold Dancers.
48. you still watch things on Beta
Beta was Sony's attempt to tap into the home video market. The tapes were smaller then modern VHS cassettes, but they held only an hour's worth of video, not long enough to hold a movie.
49. you want to change your name to Rio and dance on the sand
50. you know that "Weird Science" was a movie before a TV show
Two guys turn a Barbie doll into a "real" woman. Unfortunately the geniuses didn't do enough math to realize there were two of them, but only one of her. She was something of an electronic Genie.
51. your favorite proverb is "some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on"
This is another song reference.
52. you always waited for the Sweet Pickles Bus to visit your house
The Sweet Pickles was a children's show. They had a bus. Enough said.
53. your favorite party game is Hungry Hungry Hippos
four plastic hippos grab for little plastic balls.
54. you saw the New Kids on the Block when they were Tiffany's opening act
Both were teen star singers. The New Kids on the Block were the more annoying of the two, and both got their start performing in malls.
55. you liked Tom Hanks better when he was a cross dresser
A reference to the TV flop, "Bosom Buddies," about two men who pretend to be women to live in a "women only," hotel.
56. you know which Hollywood Square Jm J Bullock was in
Hollywood Squares is still on today. Entertainment has-beens sat in a big cube in a horrifying cross between a quiz show and tick-tack-toe.
57. you practice getting in and out of your car through the windows
The Dukes of Hazard was a show about two hayseed hicks who were always escaping from the law in their souped up car, the "General Lee." The entire county budget was spent replacing the cars the local cops totaled while chasing the rebel hayseeds. As a result, urban renewal was a pipe dream. That didn't matter though, since there wasn't even any urban areas around, unless you count the trailer park. Their chief enemy was a fat man in a white suit named Boss Hog.
58. you have the tendency to turn up the collar of your polo shirts
Another unfortunate fashion trend, and a "Trademark move" of the "Preppy" on "Saved by the Bell."
59. you're still wondering who really was the boss
"Who's the boss" was a TV show about a man working as a live-in maid for a woman. They were in love from day one, but it took most of the eighties for the duo to jump in bed. They didn't get together until the last half of the last season. The show is often considered a GOOD example of how to build and maintain romantic tension between two characters in an ongoing drama. It's also considered proof that it works better to keep the two from getting together until the end of the series. Alissa Milano got her start on this show. I wish she'd stuck to tom-boy roles after reaching adulthood though...
60. you know what the "P" in "Alex P. Keaton" stands for
Alex was a character in the already mentioned "Family Ties."
61. you keep asking your teachers if instead of the quiz you can take the physical challenge
A reference to the kids TV quiz show Double Dare. Failing to answer a question resulted in a physical challenge that involved slime, water, whipped cream and similar messy consequences. Studies show that people who watched the show as a child were 79% more likely to have a food fetish as an adult.
62. you organize weekend tournaments of TV tag
No clue. Possibly related to Laser Tag...
63. you still drink New Coke
New coke was a sick, misguided attempt to generate revenue. It was probably created by the same lab that thought up Crystal Pepsi (Clear Pepsi). If you want to know how both drinks tasted, imagine sucking on an old shoe right after chewing a lemon rind. New Code was quickly discontinued and "Classic Coke" was introduced. It consisted of the old Coke recipe with (much cheaper) Corn Syrup substituted for sugar.
64. when you watch "Terminator 2" you wonder where Vincent is
Terminator: The future is full of disaster and doom, time travel, cyborgs, obsession and a computer controlled future. I'll give away the plot a little by saying Vincent, a time traveler in love, dies near the end of the first film.
65. you know ALF's real name
Gordon P. Shumway
66. you never go out for a night on the town without frosted blue eye shadow and feathered bangs
Another reference to the strange things people did to themselves to look "trendy."
67. you can name all of the Thundercats
A cartoon about sentient space cats who crash land on earth thousands of years into the past (Or after global Armageddon, there wasn't any way to tell for sure.)
68. you got a hankerin' for a hunk of cheese
Catch phrase on an Ad campaign?
69. everything in your wardrobe is either pastel or fluorescent
The two dominate color schemes of the time period. Apparently, massive numbers of people went color blind in the 1980's
70. your musical inspiration is Sonny Mann
71. sometimes you just want to shout, shout, let it all out
Another song reference.
72. you're planning a dream vacation to Mepos
"Perfect Strangers," was a TV show about two distant cousins living together in Chicago. One of the characters was a rural rube from Mepos, a country somewhere near Greece where vests are the ULTIMATE in fashion.
73. you use your Speak and Spell to phone home
A dual reference. The first is to an educational toy, (The Speak and Spell) that tried to teach kids how to say words by showing them on a green LCD screen while croaking a robotic mangling of the word. The second reference is to the hit movie E.T., where a somewhat disturbingly cute alien is stranded on Earth and tries to "Phone Home"
74. you know the original members of Menudo
A group of pre-teen boys who sang. When they turned 16, they were booted out and replaced with a younger kid. Rickie Martin got his start in the group.
75. sometimes out of the blue you just got to shake your love
This has GOT to be another song reference.
76. when you're stuck in traffic you tell your car to engage Turbo Boost and are surprised when it doesn't talk back
A reference to the TV show "Knight Rider." A sentient black car shared the spot light with David "Baywatch" Hasselhoff. "Turbo Boost" allowed the vehicle to essentially defy gravity for short periods of time.
77. you remember when Vanessa sang Kareoke to "Locomotion"
78. you know that Mr. Steele functions best in an advisory capacity.
79. people are constantly gagging you with spoons
A big 80's high school catch phrase was "Gag me with a Spoon." Sort of like "Talk to the hand" in the late 90's
80. your idea of appreciating ancient cultures is "Walk Like an Egyptian"
A hit song that created a ridiculous dance craze. Pretty sure the Bangles sang it. (Hot lead singer though)
81. the only thing you know about the Nazis is that they threw Indy to the snakes
A reference to "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" Rent it. It's a great movie.
82. you still use your hair crimper before going out on a hot date
Another reference to 80's fashion.
83. you hatch plots to break Murdock out of VA hospital
A reference to "The A-Team." The show's opening credits are pretty self - explanatory. A group of guys are kicked out of the military for unnecessary roughness and become mercenaries of justice. They had the ultimate custom Van, complete with missile launchers and a battering ram. Murdock (Known as "Barclay," to Star Trek, The Next Generation fans) was a nutball who was always getting thrown in the psych ward.
84. you know which five people Serpentor's DNA came from
Serpentor was a genetically engineered bad guy in the cartoon, "G.I Joe." (Count Dracula, Sgt Slaughter, Ghengis Kahn & ?)
85. you have "We Are the World" on 45
A lame song a bunch of famous people got together to sing in an attempt to raise people's consciousness about some cause or another. No one really remembers the cause, just the very bad song. A 45 is not a reference to a malt beverage, but a vinyl object known as a "record" the dominate method of music distribution before Compact Discs (CDs) became popular. It was called a 45 because it was round, and spun at 45 Rotations Per Minute..
86. you're still sending death threats to Mr. Rubik
Rubik's cube was a device used to torture people in the 1980's, with the end result of driving most its victims insane.
87. you can feel St. Elmo's fire burnin' in you
No Clue. Song reference?
88. you watch NYPD Blue thinking, "Well, they're no Crockett and Tubbs, that's for sure"
The Stars of the Pastel adventure police show, "Miami Vice."