ShareThis Page

The '80s: The good, bad and ugly

| Friday, March 26, 2010

Rob McEwan | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
"Hot Tub Time Machine" stars (from left) Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, John Cusack and Clark Duke.

In the "Hot Tub Time Machine," opening Friday, a group of long-time buddies revisit the 1980s.

We take a similar trip down memory lane, remembering the good, the bad and the downright-embarrassing trends of our collective past.

Musical trends

Synthesizers: Depeche Mode, Human League, Berlin, Gary Numan -- there is not enough space in the metropolitan area to list all the musical perpetrators.

Synth drums: That brittle beat was usually provided by the Roland TR 808 Kick Drum or other computerized drum machines. And who can forget those awful hexagonal-shaped drum kits played by half the bands on MTV•

Alphabet abuse: Over-reliance on letters X and Z: INXS, the Fixx, Yaz. Numbers substituting for letters, as in "I Would Die 4 U," by Prince.

Power ballads: From "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger, to "Love Stinks" by J. Geils, these usually featured bombastic guitar riffs, histrionic choruses and a beat that sounded like a mastodon struggling in a tar pit.

The Casio keyboard , not to mention those portable keyboards that Howard Jones and Thomas Dolby could sling over their shoulders and play as they walked through the dry ice onstage.


Jelly Belly jelly beans: Ronald Reagan, who was president from 1981-1989, ignited a national food fad when it was revealed that he kept a bowl of Jelly Belly beans on his White House Oval Office desk.

Designer pizza: In 1982, Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff took pizza upscale when they opened Spago in West Hollywood. Suddenly duck sausage, artichokes, smoked salmon, goat cheese and other nontraditional ingredients were topping pizzas at restaurants across the country.

Cajun blackened fish: Cajun cuisine and blackened fish had long been part of Southern cuisine, especially in Louisiana. But it exploded into national prominence after chef Paul Prudhomme opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen restaurant in New Orleans in 1979. His cookbooks made Cajun blackened anything fashionable. Prudhomme's 1984 recipe for blackened redfish created such a demand for that particular fish that, by 1986, the federal government banned commercial fishing of the species.

Pasta salad: No 1980s suburban pot luck dinner was complete without at least one version of pasta salad.

Chocolate decadence cake: Nothing better symbolizes the "Greed is Good" decade than this rich, flourless, artery clogging dessert. Like many food items served up in the '80s, nothing could make a better adornment than to sprinkle flecks of edible gold over it.

News events

1980: Ronald Reagan elected as part of a conservative, spending-conscious political swing.

1980: U.S. defeats the heavily favored U.S.S.R. hockey team in the Winter Olympic games; then boycotts the summer games in Moscow, protesting Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Apple's Macintosh computer

1984: Apple releases its MacIntosh computer, the first commercially successful home machine, which opens the personal computing market.

1986: NASA's Challenger explodes, killing its seven astronauts and causing a 32-month hiatus in shuttle program.

1987: CDs outsell vinyl for first time, reflecting major change in the at-home music market.


New Coke

New Coke: In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a new formula for its then 99-year-old soft drink. Demand for the carbonated beverage was flat. Just 79 days after introducing the new product, Coca-Cola bowed to public pressure and reintroduced its original formula as Coke Classic to shared space with what was now called Coke II. Coke II fizzled and sales were eventually discontinued in the US market.

Snapple: Before 1987, no one would have thought you could build a business by selling sweetened, fruit-flavored, iced tea drinks. Bottles of Snapple Lemon Tea changed that. The Snapple product line now includes more than 50 flavors of juice and tea drinks and bottled waters.

Tequila Sunrise: The drink had been around since the 1920s. But in the mid-'80s no brunch was complete without this colorful concoction of orange juice, tequila, lime juice and grenadine.

Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers: In 1985, Bartles and Jaymes introduced the citrusy, crisp wine cooler now known as Classic Original. It was a hit with young adults who were not yet ready to make the transition to traditional wines. Today, Classic Original is still available, along with eight other flavors. Frank and Ed still thank you for your support.

Mimosa: Although it was born in the 1920s, the Mimosa re-established its popularity with the brunch bunch in the 1980s. A simple combination of orange juice and Champagne was the Sunday morning staple for the decade's masters of the universe.


Jazzercise: This dance/exercise movement was created in 1969, but became a full-fledged trend in the '80s with the release of Jazzercise albums and franchises across the country. Instructors even participated in the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1984.

'Jane Fonda's Workout'

Jane Fonda: Her "Jane Fonda's Workout" video, a spinoff of her best-selling book, inspired the fitness video industry. Who can forget working out in pantyhose and leotards•

Richard Simmons: He launched his "Richard Simmons Show" in 1980, which went on to win a 1981 and 1982 Daytime Emmy Award, as well as a 1983 nomination. His fame continues with his workout DVDs and commercials.

Legwarmers and headbands: The 1981 "Let's Get Physical" Olivia Newton-John hit says it all.

Wind suits: Nylon zip-up jackets with matching pants were hot -- until grannies discovered their comfort.


Prime-time soaps: Soaps had a starring role in prime time. When "Dallas" ended its 1979/80 season with the shooting of the scheming hero J.R. Ewing, it set off a summer of speculation. The "Who Done It?" episode captured a 76 percent share of viewers. Other prime-time soaps included "Dynasty," "Falcon Crest" and "Knots' Landing.

Sitcoms: "The Cosby Show," "Cheers," "Family Ties," "One Day at a Time," "Taxi" and "The Golden Girls."

Crime shows: "Magnum, P.I.," "Hill Street Blues," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Miami Vice."

Action: "The Dukes of Hazard," "Knight Rider" and "Airwolf."

Mini-series: The trend began in the late 1970s with "Roots." But the vehicle had big hits in the '80s with "North and South," "The Thornbirds," "Shogun" and "V."


Hot stuff: In 1980, Comedian Richard Pryor sets himself on fire while freebasing cocaine. Four years later, Michael Jackson's hair catches on fire while he's filming a Pepsi commercial.

Love gone wrong: In the mid-80s, evangelist Jim Bakker's PTL Networks collapses after accusations of financial fraud and a tryst with secretary Jessica Hahn.


Big hair: The bigger the better. We curled it, permed it, teased it and finished it off with gobs of mousse and atmosphere destroying hairspray.

Shoulder pads: Just like big hair, shoulder pads made us larger than life with a female linebacker look.

Acid-washed jeans: The process of acid-washing jeans used chemicals, stripping off the color of the top layer, leaving the white fabric exposed.

Neon: The bold colors were especially popular in oversized sweatshirts that hung off the shoulder. Bright eye shadow was inspired by the neon trend.

Power dressing: For men, it was the red tie and tailored designer suit. For women, it was the executive suit with skirt and floppy bow-tie blouse.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.