Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Video Games

A brief break in the action to announce that my first post for xoJane went live yesterday. Check it out if you get a chance!

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

No retrospective of the 80s would be complete without a mention of video games. It was, after all, the era in which the medium came of age. But would you believe that video games can be traced as far back as 1950?

Bertie the Brain was an electronic game of Tic-Tac-Toe displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition for two weeks, then disassembled. There were many other games over the years, but the first commercially-available arcade game was 1971's Computer Space.

True 80s video game fanatics think of the Atari as the true beginning of gaming. When the Atari 2600 released in 1977, it definitely made an impact. Believe it or not, this seemed pretty advanced for the time.

What really popularized gaming in the 80s, however, was the arcade. Playing games became an event. You left your house and went to the mall or a nearby shopping center, where you could play whatever game you wanted for a few minutes for the cost of a quarter. The first arcade game was Space Invaders and it remained an arcade staple through much of the 80s.

Then came this game...which captured the interest of even total non-gamers like me.

There was even a hit song, Pac-Man Fever.

The industry "crashed" around 1983, with multiple video game equipment/console manufacturers going bankrupt. Arcades remained around for a few years, though. My friends and I always thought of it as "the place where all the cute boys hang out." Of course, they were too busy playing games to pay attention to us.

Arcades are still around (Dave & Buster's, mostly), but somehow it isn't quite the same.

Have you ever played an 80s-style video game?

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Urban Cowboy

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

In 1980, John Travolta was one of the hottest actors in the movie industry. So the release of this movie was highly anticipated:

The movie epitomized the fashion of the time. In 1980, country-western music exploded in popularity with country music songs like this one...

...this one...

...and this one...

...ranking high on Top 40 charts as well as the country music charts.

At the same time, country-western attire was very popular. The phenomenal success of this show might have had a little something to do with that.

Urban Cowboy was filled with sappy melodrama and dark moments--a trend we'd see in other movies in the 80s. Debra Winger was gritty and realistic (and whiny and annoying) and John Travolta was oh-so-dreamy to women who were old enough to appreciate it. (I was ten.)

Perhaps the most notable thing about Urban Cowboy was its soundtrack. The songs were all over the radio that year.

There were no fewer than six top-ten hits from the soundtrack, including Lookin' for Love, Stand By Me, and Look What You've Done to Me. The country music trend that followed has been called the Urban Cowboy Movement. John Travolta had that power at the time. That was before Scientology gained control of him.

Have you seen Urban Cowboy? What's your favorite John Travolta movie?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Teen Dance Clubs

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

Being a teenager is tough. You're too young to drink but you want to socialize. In fact, it's probably the time in your life when it's most important to get out of the house and meet new people. If only you could hang out in clubs like 20-somethings do.

In the 80s, a new trend emerged. It's important to note that it became so popular, it appeared even in normal-sized cities. Those of us who don't live in New York City and Los Angeles don't have access to these things like those of you in big cities. In the 80s, even those of us in "middle America" got to enjoy the pleasure of teen clubs.

When they first opened, teen clubs had crazy-long lines like this one.

After about six months, teen clubs looked like this.

That's the problem with teenagers. They're fickle. If you build something, they'll be fanatics at first. Then they'll get bored. They're like the dog from Up.

But I still have fond memories of crazy, high-calorie virgin drinks...

And bad 1985 Eddie Murphy party music.

In fact, every time I hear that song, I think of hanging out in that teen club in 1985 with my friends.

Do you think there's a hangout that could hold teens' interest for more than six months?

A little Eddie Murphy and Rick James for your Thursday!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Soap Operas

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

It may be impossible to believe, especially if you've been stranded at home with nothing but daytime TV in the past few years, but at one time, soap operas were event TV. This was an era before we voted people off islands or followed middle-aged housewives around with cameras. It was the era of Bo and Hope...

And Victor and Nikki...

And, of course, the most popular soap opera couple of all time--the couple that put the words "soap opera super couple" on the map: Luke and Laura.

The best thing about soaps? They brought people together. Viewers couldn't tweet while they watched. They just watched it and talked about it the next day.

Soap operas actually date back to the days of radio, making their way to TV in the 1940s. Initially, the shows were designed to take place exclusively within the confines of a studio, making it easier to air five episodes a week, 52 weeks a year.

In the late 70s/early 80s, soaps began to up the ante, leaving the studio to travel to exotic locations. Interestingly, as its audience began to shrink because women were filling the workforce, soap operas reached a height of popularity they had never seen before (or since). Who was watching these soaps?

Yep, teens. Tweens. I can't speak for all of us, but I personally became interested when my babysitter (along with the rest of the world) made this wedding must-watch TV:

Luke and Laura got off to a rocky start. He raped her in a disco--which would have been a huge scandal but some of us had no idea about all of that. We just knew this couple was getting married and the world cared. So we cared, too. Plus, Genie Francis was beautiful.

After they got married, Luke and Laura had a whole epic adventure that involved her wearing a dark wig and pretending her name was Lucy. I'll be darned if I can remember what all that was about, but people seemed to love it.

For the rest of the 80s, soaps enjoyed a loyal fan base made up of teens, as well as adults with VCRs. There were supercouples...

And future stars...

And by the 90s, the whole thing had pretty much started a slow downward slide. It's a slide that is likely permanent. But we'll always have all the soap opera actresses now starring on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Did you ever watch daytime soap operas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Rubik’s Cube

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

It's rare that a toy comes along that sets of a national frenzy. But in the early 1980s, one toy got us all.

The Rubik's Cube was actually invented in the mid-70s but it took a while to flood the market. The original name was the Magic Cube. It was renamed for its founder, Erno Rubik, who was a Hungarian architect and professor of architecture.

The Rubik's Cube may be the top-selling toy of all time, but it wasn't the staple of the 80s that pop culture would want you to believe. Like everything else, it was here and then gone again in a brief period of time.

Most of us had a hard time figuring it out. In fact, Rubik himself had a rough time solving the cube. He created a block, made a few turns, then realized he had a mix of colors but no idea to get them back to their original solid state.

For the brief couple of months we were all into the Rubik's Cube trend, we figured a few things out. One, you could remove all the stickers and put them on different cubes to "solve" the puzzle. Or you could get a screwdriver and disassemble the thing, then put it back together again.

You can still buy Rubik's Cubes today. We have one. My husband got it as a promotional item at a conference. But somehow it isn't as fun if you're the only one who has one.

What's the most difficult puzzle you've ever solved?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for Quiet Riot

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:

As a child of the 80s, I have to say this isn't one of our proudest moments. For reasons I've never quite understood, at some point in the 80s, the music industry decided what rock stars really needed was a big dose of "pretty."

Called "glam metal," the movement seemed to be an attempt to contrast a band's look with its sound. The band would be doused in lipstick, eyeliner, and hairspray, but they would scream and play guitar as though they were violent ax murderers.

Quiet Riot was one of the many bands that attempted the look because it was "in" but only in small measure.

Van Halen was another.

But glam rock can be traced all the way back to the 70s. 70s children will remember this band:

At the time, they stood out. By the mid-80s, though, it was hard to tell glam rock bands apart. They have since earned the nickname "hair bands" because of all that hair.

By the mid 90s, the screaming seemed to stop in favor of a new, more subdued form of rock. Today glam rock exists mostly in our memories, although there are a few little-known bands always circulating. Believe it or not, this form of rock still has a fan base.

Do you think glam rock should have a revival?