Monday, May 23, 2011

Fictional 90s Bands We’d Still Totally Go See on Tour

Some of my favorite bands don’t exist. There, I said it, and I feel much better to get that off my chest. It can be a pretty embarrassing when you realize that a fair number of songs coming up on shuffle on your iPod were recorded by fictional characters, some of whom are actually cartoons. Note to self: take iPod off shuffle when I have company if I don’t want “Bangin’ on a Trashcan/Think Big!” from Nickelodeon’s Doug to blare loudly from my speakers.

Real or fake, I’d still pay to see these bands live:

Jesse and the Rippers

As someone who’s only slightly embarrassed to admit she bought the Uncle Jesse’s Photo Album from Scholastic book orders, it’s no surprise I was heavily into Full House’s fictional band Jesse and the Rippers. To be fair, John Stamos is actually fairly musically talented and has appeared in Broadway musicals and drumming on tour with the Beach Boys. Check out Jesse and the Rippers’ fantastically cheesy cover of the Beach Boys Forever above--it’s enough to make you jealous if you missed Stamos’s cameos on their tours.

Zack Attack/Hot Sundae

Zack Attack - Friends Forever by ray548

If Saved by the Bell was your thing, you have your pick of fictional music groups behind which to throw your fandom. Apparently the writers had a bad case of Days of Our Lives-grade amnesia and forgot that they had already used the “main characters form a band” storyline. Luckily, they managed to cover it up with some clever plot-changing details--in one case (Zack Attack) it was all just a dream, whereas in the other (Hot Sundae) we get to see Jessie’s classic caffeine pill freakout.

The Beets

With lyrics like “I need more allowance, yodel ay hee hoo!” and “Ahh eee ooooh, killer tofu!” the Beets’ catchy tunes probably made up for more of their appeal than did the content of their songs. A parody of the Beatles, Doug and the gang were forever trying to win tickets to their concerts and convincing this world-famous band to play a show at Bluffington Middle School.

The Wonders (formerly the Oneders)

They may not have been a real band, but That Thing You Do’s The Wonders had a real-life hit with “That Thing You Do!” The song made it to number 41 on the Billboard Top 100--not bad for a movie song performed by a group of actors. It is a catchy song, and of course, the guys look pretty dapper in those maroon suits.

Mystik Spiral

MTV’s Dara had a longtime crush on her best friend’s brother, the pitch-perfect 90s alt rocker Trent. As the frontman of the ever-struggling Mystik Sprial, Trent wrote some pretty deep lyrics, like in the video above:

You put me on a short leash/and threw away my hydrant! You ate up all my cable/now my coat’s no longer vibrant. My nose is dry and chapped/but this puppy’s here to stay/scratch my belly baby/every dog has its day. Awoooooooo!


This band from Can’t Hardly Wait kept us in suspense, gearing up for a hyped performance but never delivering on their promise. In this case, I have to agree with the band’s frontman: you probably shouldn’t wear the shirt of the band you’re in. Though, to be fair, if he gets to wear the shirt, I’d probably want to wear the hat, too. It’s a fair exchange.

Rex Manning

The day I realized Rex Manning from Empire Records was the kid from Grease 2, it blew my mind. Who knew there could be a single actor who could play both a cool rider and a washed-up 80s pop star? Unfortunately for Rex, love can’t turn back the hands of time like it did for Grease 2’s Michael. At least in Empire Records, Maxwell Caulfield can make fun of himself as a cheesy character. In Grease 2, he was absolutely serious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Children of the 90s Jewelry Trends

Like all fashion trends, jewelry fads are fickle. What’s fashionable and stylish one day can seem remarkably passe the next. Youth-oriented trends can be particularly fleeting; capitalizing on what’s considered cool requires a certain dump-and-run marketing strategy as styles shift.

Unfortunately, these quickly changing trends means all of us bandwagon preteen fashionistas can look back at old photos and cringe at our choice of accessories. Our style may not have been as overblown and overdone as the Madonna-style accessory-laden looks of our 80s predecessors, but we still had more than our fair share of poorly executed jewelry looks. Here are just a few of the popular jewelry fads that plagued our generation:

Best Friends Necklaces

According to the logic of 80s and 90s jewelry designers, nothing quite says “Best Friends Forever!” like the raw imagery of a broken heart. Really, what better to symbolize our forever friendship than a heart brutally cracked down its center, allowing us to flaunt its tattered remains around our necks as a symbol of how much we care for one another? It’s near foolproof reasoning.

In reality, the symbol was probably pretty appropriate for the quick-shifting alliances of young girls. “Forever” was a fairly flexible notion to the wearers of these necklaces, as many so-called friends called back and/or reissued the other necklace to a newer, cooler friend. I wouldn’t feel too bad about it, though. Who really wants to wear a necklace that reads “BE FRIE” or “ST NDS” anyway?

Tattoo Style Chokers

A choker, by its very name and nature, sounds more like an instrument of torture than a jewelry fashion statement. Add the word “tattoo” and you’ve got a pretty questionable trend on your, neck. These woven plastic necklaces and bracelets were a huge overnight trend in the late 90s. Their closeness to the skin combined with the flatness of the plastic gave it a look like a neck tattoo, because what kind of middle schooler doesn’t want to look like they have a permanently inked celtic pattern running across their jugular?

Dog Tags

On a dog, a dog tag makes perfect sense: tag your animal to ensure his safe delivery back to you in the case he gets lost or runs away. In the days before cell phone GPS tracking, perhaps our parents felt it necessary to tag us for migratory purposes. Dog tags may also be appropriate for military personnel, but their practicality wanes a bit when it’s either jewel encrusted and manufactured by Tiffany and Co or distributed as a giveaway at a bar mitzvah party or sweet sixteen.

Slap Bracelets

Any good child of the 90s knows violence and jewelry goes hand in hand, or least wrist in wrist. That’s the best conclusion we can deduce from the overwhelming popularity of slap bracelets, a cloth or plastic coated wire that snapped into place when it was slapped on the wrist. Schools were quick to outlaw these after horror stories emerged of wires snapping out and accidentally slitting open wrists.

Nonetheless, these were a staple of a 90s childhood, commonly found as cheap takeaways in birthday party bags or as arcade prizes. A little danger over a burst artery or two didn’t scare us; we children of the 90s liked to live on the cheap accessory edge.

Jelly Bracelets

Jelly bracelets were more of a holdover from the 80s, but many of us still wore ours proudly well into the 80s. Perhaps we wanted to coordinate well with our jelly sandals, or maybe we were just early adopted of SillyBandz. Whatever the reason, we stacked these babies up to our elbows in bright neon colors.

Body Jewelry

The 90s was a notorious time for rebellious teenagers sporting tattoos and piercings they were sure to regret sometime in a five year span after acquiring them. Belly button and tongue piercings were especially popular, perhaps because they freaked out our parents so much. Teen pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera sported dangly belly button bling and inspired an ill-advised generation of young women (including myself, for full disclosure purposes) to accessorize their navels.

It was also very popular to sport a row of earrings up and down each ear, with a full row of studs or hoops running from cartilage to lobe. For those of us with easily shocked parents, we sometimes were kind enough to compromise with temporary magnetic piercings or clip-on cuffs. They provided the ultimate in poseur accessories--they looked like piercings, but served a population of young people too chicken to actually pierce anything.

Yin Yang Jewelry

Don’t be fooled by the ancient symbolism of the yin and yang--most of us children of the 90s were not particularly concerned with interdependence or complementary forces driving our universe. Instead, most of us just sported whatever Claire’s told us to wear. In this case, many of us supported an ancient Taoist philosophy without even knowing it.

Hemp Necklaces

For the craftier of 90s children, hemp necklaces were a great logical next step up from friendship bracelets. Simply buy some hemp, knot it up with a few beads, and tie it on a friend’s neck not to be removed until he or she can no longer stand the smell. Hemp necklaces were great for those who were wannabe hippies or just wanted to look like one. Like most trends in the 90s, appearances far outweighed the actual underlying ideology a trend seemed to represent. It was unlikely any of us could speak at length about the uses and sustainability of hemp as a resource, but we’d be more than happy to wear a knotted length of it around our necks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger’s signature red and white block logo with the navy border has become so ubiquitous as a knockoff design for cheap tourist t-shirts and souvenir regalia that it’s become hard to remember that this insignia was once popular in its own right. At different times throughout the 1990s, Hilfiger’s logo exemplified a wide variety of fashion movements ranging from cool (hip hop style crewneck sweatshirts) style to shameful (preppy preadolescent polos).

The 90s were a time of great brand consciousness; many mainstream young fashion followers were content to plaster themselves silly with logo-emblazoned garments. Despite all of the alternative movements of the 90s, much of the decade’s fashion was still largely characterized by an adherence to brand names and an unexplainable willingness to shell out fifty bucks for a sweatshirt whose only redeeming quality was a stamped on logo and accompanying designer name.

Hilfiger’s fashion became such a coveted status symbol that when rapper Snoop Dogg wore a signature Hilfiger red, white, and navy rugby shirt for an appearance on a 1994 episode of Saturday Night Live, New York City stores quickly sold out of the style. Hilfiger’s sportswear became a highly versatile trend, transitioning seamlessly from suburban teenager to hip hop icon. Hilfiger capitalized on his popularity among popular rappers and hip hop artists, including Coolio and Puff Daddy in his runway shows and enlisting the late singer Aaliyah in a print campaign.

His clothing designs were simple, featuring iconic designs, patriotic color schemes, and lots and lots of logos. A simple shirt or pair of jeans bearing little visual interest outside of Hilfiger’s signature logo sold for a relatively high price, giving the brand the illusion of exclusivity. Many children of the 90s undoubtedly argued with their parents that yes, it was totally worth it to pay forty dollars for a plain t-shirt with “Tommy Girl” splashed across the chest. With multiple successful clothing and fragrance lines, it seemed Tommy Hilfiger was destined for uncapped style popularity.

Unfortunately for Hilfiger, at the height of his 90s success the newly evolved internet rumor mill started churning out falsehoods about Hilfiger’s purported prejudiced beliefs. A widely circulated email incorrectly reported Hilfiger’s allegedly racist views and claimed he had appeared on Oprah to disparage Black, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic and other non-white wearers of his clothing. You may have received or heard about an email like this:

Oprah's interview and Tommy Hilfiger Good for Oprah!!!! I'm sure many of you watched the recent taping of The Oprah Winfrey show where her guest was Tommy Hilfiger. On the show, she asked him if the statements about race he was accused of saying were true.

Statements like"... if I'd known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would NOT buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people."

His answer to Oprah was a simple, "YES". Where after she immediately asked him to leave her show.

My suggestion? Don't buy your next shirt or Perfume from Tommy Hilfiger. Let's give him what he asked for. Let's not buy his clothes.

Let's put him in a financial state where he himself will not be able to afford the ridiculous prices he puts on his clothes.


Many former Hilfiger fans were outraged over this claim, despite the fact that no one could remember or locate the footage of his supposed career-killing appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. You would think with everyone up in arms over this story, someone somewhere would say, “Hey, this sounds kind of suspicious and made up. Maybe we should verify this as credible?” You would be wrong.

Hilfiger’s rep denied the statement, and Oprah declared the rumor false on her show. Over a decade after the original rumor took hold, Hilfiger appeared on the Oprah show to set the record straight and debunk the myth. Though now it is clear that there is no truth to the massively circulated email, its presence wrongfully damaged Hilfiger’s personal reputation.

Unluckily for Tommy Hilfiger, this was not his last brush with public scandal. All of Hilfiger’s clothing is marked “Made in the USA,” but his manufacturers utilized sweatshop labor in the Northern Mariana Islands. As a US territory, it technically verifies the “Made in the USA” claim without having to adhere to all of those pesky sweatshop labor laws like minimum wage. While they settled the class action suit, it didn’t do much for Hilfiger’s already wavering public esteem.

Despite all of the scandals--both verified and false--Hilfiger’s designs prevailed as some of the most popular fashions of the decade. While his popularity has faded significantly since his 90s glory days, Hilfiger remains a staple in department stores and has continued to expand his lines to include homewares and other items. His recent designs have veered more into the classic preppy than the hip hop style that brought him such fame in the 90s--it's certainly tough to imagine the still-famous but aging Snoop Dogg or P. Diddy appearing in a Hilfiger ad in this decade.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teen Witch

Some teen movies fail to accurately capture the coveted "cool" factor marketers are always trying to strain out of popular adolescents. This holds true especially in the cases of movies designed to be family friendly, presenting teenagers in a way that more often appears cheesy than realistic. When a studio attempts to release a movie that capitalizes on several major markets--supernatural themes, good-looking teen characters, a female protagonist, and package the whole thing as allegedly fun for the whole family--it can often end in box office embarrassment.

Perhaps there is no better example of this phenomenon than the 1989 movie Teen Witch. MGM was eager to ride the coattails of the success of the 1985 hit Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox, seeking to cast a female lead character in a similar teen-geared film.

Just in case you also think this sounds like a good idea, try watching the following trailer. It should be more than enough to change your mind on this ill-advised filmmaking venture. Plus, you’ll also get some killer late 80s dance move inspiration paired with a stellar makeover montage. You’ve been warned:

The movie is, if possible, worse than it looks in the preceding preview. It performed incredibly poorly at the box office, earning just under $28,000 throughout its wide release period in the spring of 1989. Instead of simply retreating in shame, however, Teen Witch producers seemed to think the best method of reaching a broader audience was to simply bombard us nonstop with the film, playing it in continuous loops on cable TV channels like Cinemax, HBO, and more recently ABC Family. The movie gained a loyal fan base, morphing it from a box office disaster to campy cult classic over the course of the 90s.

Teen Witch’s plot is made up of equal parts lazy rehashed plot points of similar films in its genre, bizarre revenge fantasy enactment, and ultimate heartwarming lesson learned. The writers also inexplicably felt strongly that it should sort of be a musical, creating a slew of inexcusably corny song-and-dance numbers.

Occasionally Teen Witch tries to work songs in the plot, like demonstrating a cheer to the high school cheerleading squad, but mostly they were just lazily thrown in as a cheesy afterthought. “I Like Boys”, below, is one of their more creative attempts. I will give them some extra credit for the innovative uses of towels as dance props in the locker room sequence.

Other times, the movie randomly inserts a musical number, like this one in which main character and eponymous teen witch Louise fantasizes about being the most popular girl:

For those who still didn’t think that was that bad, if you’re out there, the “Top That” rap should probably be enough to set you over the edge:

And, just for fun, here’s Kenneth from 30 Rock performing the same number. I personally prefer his version:

For those who managed to miss this gem during its many airings on television, here is a woefully abbreviated synopsis of the plot. Already beautiful but unfortunately hairsprayed 80s-mall-banged protagonist Louise is a nerdy teen who is unlucky in love. If that weren’t bad enough, she has a horrifically irritating younger brother who sort of weirdly looks like Tori Spelling and terrorizes her daily. Anyone who’s not into subtlety or nuanced pop culture references may also appreciate Dick Sargent as her father--as the second Darrin on Bewitched, these mortal-to-witch switcharoo plotlines are nothing Sargent hasn’t seen many times before.

Our girl Louise innocently stumbles in the home of the mysterious and fun-sized Madame Serena (Zelda Rubenstein), who you may recognize as that little lady from Poltergeist and the voice of all of those Skittles “Taste the Rainbow” commercials. Madame Serena conveniently immediately places Louise as reincarnation of her old witch buddy, hooks her up with a power-producing amulet, and sends her on her bewitching way.

Louise casts a spell to make herself the most popular girl in school and to gain the attention of her love interest, Brad, which we all know will work out exceptionally well. She plays tricks on her teachers, gains the unwarranted love and adoration of those awesome cheerleaders we met in the “I Like Boys Video” above, and makes Brad as interested in her as he could possibly be against his own free will.

To squeeze in a heartwarming life lesson at the end, Louise eventually realizes that believing in and loving herself for who she really is trumps magical powers. Those of us who met the original magic-free Louise at the beginning of the movie may beg to differ based on how much cooler and prettier she seemedpost-powers, but we’ll just have to go with it to ensure this story does indeed contain a moral, no matter how vague and haphazardly presented it may be.

Few would argue that Teen Witch was a substantial or even worthwhile film, but many of us lost several hours of our lives to watching it regardless. If you somehow managed to miss it, you can watch it in segments on You Tube or download the full movie or music on iTunes.. Bonus tip: some of us may even have “Top That” and “I Like Boys” on our iPods. If you don’t yet, I highly recommend it--it’s a great way to break the ice when your iPod in on shuffle during a party. Warning: this tip is not for the easily humiliated.

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