When MTV debuted on August 1, 1981, it staked out its territory in epic style with a stylized rocket launch, a moon landing, and a flag emblazoned with the network logo thrust by an astronaut into the lunar surface. The first music video to air on the shiny new network was “Video Killed the Radio Star,” a hit single from the English new wave duo The Buggles off their 1979 album The Age of Plastic.
In the liner notes to their 1984 debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome, Frankie Goes to Hollywood bassist Mark O’Toole writes of the band’s hit “Relax,” “[W]hen it first came out we used to pretend it was about motivation, and really it was about shagging.”
Yes, Mark. We know.
If you’re in the mood for an über-trashy eighties teen film, look no further than Tuff Turf. This film, which was directed by Children of the Corn’s Fritz Kiersch and released in 1985 to general antipathy, is the best kind of trash, populated by attractive and game young actors, two of whom—James Spader and Robert Downey, Jr.—would go on to become titans of the entertainment industry. It boasts a comes-out-of-nowhere great soundtrack with tracks from Jim Carroll, Marianne Faithfull, and Lene Lovich under the direction of composer Jonathan Elias, who produced albums for Duran Duran and Grace Jones and co-wrote MTV’s iconic Moon Landing theme.The film has a rip-roaring plot involving a showdown between a rebellious preppy transplanted from Connecticut (played by Spader at his coldest and sleekest) and a rough-and-tumble Los Angeles street gang in half shirts and leather pants (played by a bunch of agreeable dudes you’ve never heard of). Perhaps best of all, it features a slew of gorgeously trashy fashions (I repeat: half shirts and leather pants). For aficionados of so-terrible-they’re-wonderful eighties teen fashions, this film is an embarrassment of riches. Here’s an overview of some of the film’s greatest fashion trends:
When I find myself in times of trouble, I regress into the comfort of nostalgia. Hence, today I’m looking at “One Jem Too Many,” an episode of Jem and the Holograms from 1987.
Jem and the Holograms, more commonly known as Jem, aired in syndication on US television from 1985 to 1988. It was created by Christy Marx, a writer for the contemporaneous G.I. Joe cartoon, and the two shows share much of the same DNA: Both were based on Hasbro toys, both feature a wide array of surprisingly detailed characters, and both are completely, utterly, unabashedly bonkers. Jem centers around Jerrica Benton, no-nonsense CEO of the record label Starlight Music and managing director of a foster home for girls, who, with the help of iconoclastic hologram technology controlled by her earrings, can semi-magically transform into a pink-haired new wave superstar named Jem. Jem and her bandmates, the Holograms—Aja, Shana, Raya, and Jerrica’s kid sister Kimber—are locked in perpetual battle with rival girl group the Misfits (no relation), who constantly scheme to sabotage and/or outright murder Jem. That description does not do justice to the berserk lunacy of the average episode of Jem.
For some damn fool reason, I thought this would be a good idea.
My affection for the high-energy, unapologetic goofiness of The A-Team is no secret. And while I’ve arrived very late to the nonstop cocktail party that is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I’ve quickly lost my heart to the show. So, I thought to myself, what could be more relevant to my interests than a very special Man From U.N.C.L.E.-themed A-Team episode? How could this possibly go wrong?
Okay, sure, even on paper, it’s not a perfect match. Mashing up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (swanky, frothy, sexy) with The A-Team (gonzo, gleeful, idiotic) is like ordering a Kir Royale with a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser, or ending a jazz recital with a string of fart jokes. Even so, with the right script, this could’ve worked. This could’ve been fun. Hell, it could’ve been cute.
“Do you know me? Of course you do. That’s because I’m famous!”
Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is an educational video from 1984 in which Mr. T—bouncer turned fighter turned actor turned pop-culture icon—provides kids with a series of life lessons. It was directed by Jeff Margolis, best known as a prolific director of awards shows; over the years, Margolis has won an Emmy and two DGA Awards for directing the Academy Awards, which is a nifty fact to have on hand if you ever find yourself trying to make the case that Hollywood can be, at times, just a tad insular and self-congratulatory.
This is a fascinating cultural artifact. Despite being almost an hour long (and currently only available via muddy VHS copies that various kind souls have uploaded to YouTube), Be Somebody… Or Be Somebody’s Fool is compulsively watchable, mostly due to the goofball charisma of its star. Mr. T expanded his fame by deftly exploiting the dichotomy between his outsized persona—his musclebound physique, his mohawk hairdo, his pounds of jewelry—and his sunny, softhearted nature; here, the latter serves him well.
Fake television band alert! I’m a sucker for a good fake television band, whether we’re talking about The Monkees, or Jem and the Holograms, or today’s raison d’etre, Kidd Video.
A half-hour blend of live action and animation, Kidd Video aired for two seasons on Saturday mornings on NBC from 1984 to 1985. It was produced by Haim Saban for Saban Entertainment, who would later go on to create the Power Rangers mega-franchise. While Kidd Video never reached anything approaching Power Rangers-esque levels of enduring pop-culture impact—for starters, it’s never had a proper home entertainment release, most likely because securing the music rights would be prohibitively complex and expensive—it’s nonetheless remembered fondly by MTV-crazed kids from that era.
Let’s take a look at another fabulous episode of the classic mid-eighties G.I. Joe cartoon, shall we? Here we have “Skeletons in the Closet,” a thrilling saga of retribution, espionage, ghosts, ancient cults, mystical creatures, and weird yet heartfelt attempts at Scottish brogues.
During a failed Cobra operation, the Baroness catches Destro canoodling in the bushes with a sexy blonde Cobra underling. Because the Baroness is awesomeness personified, she outwardly shrugs off Destro’s chronic infidelity, preferring instead to quietly plot terrible, elaborate vengeance against him.
Just in case anyone’s trying to make sense of all the pieces I’ve been posting, there’s no cohesive theme, unless it’s all under a nebulous umbrella of “Random Crap I Like.” Ergo, today we’ve got a recap of a 1985 episode of the syndicated G.I. Joe cartoon.
Not just any episode, though: “The Gamemaster” is probably the very best G.I. Joe episode, though I’m willing to hear arguments in support of “Skeletons in the Closet”, in which a negligee-clad Lady Jaye storms around her haunted Scottish castle wielding a golf club while hunting ghosts before getting offered up by a Druidic cult as a sacrifice to the multi-tentacled alien creature living in her basement. Oh, and she discovers Destro is her cousin or something. It’s an amazing episode. Still, I give a slight edge to “The Gamemaster” because the Joes and Cobra end up setting aside their differences and working together against a common enemy and, gosh darn it, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.
So in 1986, Boy George appeared on an A-Team episode, and it was glorious.
For anyone who missed out on The A-Team’s contribution to the pop-culture zeitgeist of the eighties, it was a wildly popular hyper-macho action series about a wisecracking quartet of Vietnam veterans-turned-fugitives-turned-mercenaries: team leader Hannibal (George Peppard), pretty-boy con artist Face (Dirk Benedict), legally-insane pilot Murdock (Dwight Schultz), and muscle-bound softie B.A. (Mr. T). Airing on NBC from 1983 to 1987, it somehow managed to be witless and violent and inane and charming all at once. For anyone who missed out on Boy George’s contribution to the pop-culture zeitgeist of the eighties, he’s an androgynous English pop star known for his heavy makeup and penchant for cross-dressing, who, with his New Wave band Culture Club, had a number of catchy hits throughout the decade. So, y’know, obviously this was a synergistic pairing.