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The 80s, myth and reality?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Trenchfriend, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. Trenchfriend

    Trenchfriend I'll Lock Up

    Sadly, I'm born in 1984. And I'm very interested in how the 80s really were, especially in the US.

    How was it really, for the masses? Feel, atmosphere, popculture and all that?
    2jakes likes this.
  2. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    If I had to come up with one word, it would be "superficial." Just about everywhere you looked, it was loud, gaudy, gauche, and completely lacking in substance. Insincerity was the hallmark of the time in the US -- if you thought the seventies were cynical, the eighties multiplied that a thousandfold, but did so behind a fixed, plastic-coated, cap-toothed, blow-dried rictus smile. It was like the twenties, only with far worse music. It was the ultimate triumph of the Boys From Marketing.

    If there's one bit of pop-culture effluvia that really captures what the eighties felt like in America, it would be the comic strip "Bloom County," by Brooke Breathed, who, using a variety of human and animal avatars, perfectly mirrored the empty sleaziness of the decade.
  3. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

    Oh, they were real. I spent the most "80s" years (say, '84-'87 which were horrid for those of us who were alive then) in the trenches of middle school, which is horrid for everyone.

    People always talk about how blah and ridiculous the 70s were, but the 80s were much worse. The 70s were goofy but, as Douglas Adams might say, mostly harmless. The 80s saw a rise in strident, macho attitudes, a reawakening of the idolatry of the filthy rich, and clothes with colors that have since been banned by the E.P.A. If you were to look at my Jr. High yearbook, roughly half the girls sport hairdos that just barely fit in the picture frame. I myself wore giant-framed glasses that I am sure partly account for my stooped adult posture. Television was about the worst drek that has ever been spewed from Hollywood (and that's saying something). Movies saw the ascendance of the big, orange explosion that would have got top billing in the credits if it had a better agent. It was probably the most conformist period to grow up in since the button-down 1950s.

    Clearly, I'm not a fan.
  4. green papaya

    green papaya One Too Many

    California, usa
    the 1980's was the MTV era, lots of music videos on tv 24 hours a day

    lots of famous movies from the 1980's will show what it was like, movies like

    Beverly Hills Cop (1984) Fletch (1985) National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

    one good thing about the 1980's only ex sailors, bikers, gangs, criminals had a tattoo, and it was just a small tattoo, not like today with the full sleeves or body tattoos, the tattoo craze didnt happen yet.
    KY Gentleman, wgnovak and Michael R. like this.
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Indeed. In fact, I'd go on to suggest that the eighties are the tick-ridden, salmonella-infected chicken that has come home to roost thirty years later. It was the herpes of decades -- the gift that keeps on giving.
    Edward, vitanola, tonyb and 2 others like this.
  6. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    The 80s was over the top. Hairstyles epitomized this. Lots of teased hair, "high" hair that had to be nearly shellacked with hair spray to stay in place. I crimped my hair a lot (the crimper tool gained popularity then). Neon colors were in. Parachute pants. Hair bands where the guys wore more makeup and used more hairspray than most women. The mullet hairstyle for men was in - and my, was it ever ugly.

    It was an era of excess, of drug use and the ultra rich. I've never thought about it before, but as Lizzie said, it was a lot like the 1920s. Oh, and let's not forget the Cold War! Until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Russia was THE ENEMY. And the movies really hammered it home. Rocky 4 where Rocky goes to big bad Russia to fight Dolph Lundgren who was hopped up on steroids; Red Dawn where the Russians attacked America and a group of high school teens became a resistance group.

    All that being said, I'd take the 80s over the 70s any day. I was born in '75 and I look at the culture of the 70s and am glad I escaped the majority of it. I don't like the music or the movies or the fashion of the '70s at all. It depresses me.

    The Netflix show Stranger Things is set in the '80s and it gets everything right.
    Trenchfriend and M Hatman like this.
  7. belfastboy

    belfastboy Call Me a Cab

    vancouver, canada
    I was born in the 1940's for so better or worse have lived my adult life through the 60's til today. Don't have a clear picture of the 1980's as I was deep in either career development or then chucking it and travelling for the last part of the decade. The big however is that in my memory if you want to talk about tick ridden, salmonella infected chickens coming home to roost you cannot go too far wrong in attaching that to the later 1960's and all the BS attached to the age of Aquarius and all its delusional thoughts on life, love and goofy politics. We are still suffering the effects of this era today as much of that delusion is now running our universities. I did enjoy the acid though!
    wgnovak, AmateisGal, M Hatman and 2 others like this.
  8. Michael R.

    Michael R. Call Me a Cab

    West Tennessee USA
    AMEN to that .

    The 80s were a time of superficial image and throw away everything . Yuppies , hair bands , MTV , divorce , ... throw away marriages and children . Crummy cars . A sad time in many ways . Personally one word that sums it up is Plastic . That was when Plastic replaced glass bottles in the US , and it seemed like everything about it was plastic .
    Desert dog, Trenchfriend and vitanola like this.
  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Actually, most of the flea-bitten Aquarians I've known were pretty decent sorts. A big wave of them moved up here in the 70s as part of the "Back to the Land" movement, and while the ones who couldn't cut it went back home to Westchester after the first winter, the ones who gutted it out made a real place for themselves, and most of them are still here -- good, solid productive people who work with their hands, and many of whom I'm proud to call friends. I can't say I think much of the cacaphonous drivel that generation calls music, but most of them seem to have grown up enough to give up the dope.

    For my money, it's their cousins of the same generation who put on the power suits, shoulder pads, foulard ties, suspenders, and kiltie loafers in the '80s who were the real delusionals. Unfortunately their delusions are still very much with us today.
  10. belfastboy

    belfastboy Call Me a Cab

    vancouver, canada
    I have a much younger brother, almost 1/2 generational diff. When he was in University studying to become a teacher he used to give me shit all the time about him having to suffer the effects of my generation's loopy ideas. Much of the loopy thinking was deposited into education departments, then schools and university. He had to suffer through open classrooms, organic learning, etc etc. As a Junior in High School he hired, on his own volition, a very old retired high school English teacher to tutor him in basic English grammar. The new teaching methods had thrown out teaching basic grammar as being to stifling to the creative spirit of children. When faced with university, having to write cogent essays that others could follow he had to hire someone outside the system to teach him the skills to do that. To this day he will not let me forget the harm my generation inflicted on the west.
    M Hatman and Michael R. like this.
  11. Michael R.

    Michael R. Call Me a Cab

    West Tennessee USA
    They're the same bunch Lizzie . The ones that were in college in the 60s , and by the 80s had gotten into positions and power . I know the folks you're referring to , they are good people pretty much .
  12. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    I have more subdued memories of the 80s, maybe because I lived in Colorado, which saw two recessions then. I lived in Colorado Springs when it was the foreclosure capital of America.

    My classmates and I didn't aspire to wear designer clothes or drive a Maserati. Teenagers stood in long lines just to APPLY for minimum wage jobs. Yet someone who lived at home past a certain age was called a 30-year-old baby, and calling someone a "priss" (a snooty, finicky person) was an insult. Grit and independence were valued far more than they are today. A college student yelling her head off at a speech would have been taken to a mental hospital.

    Grown-ups, as far as I could tell, didn't aspire to have granite countertops or drive a Mercedes or buy look-at-me washers and dryers (which didn't exist then). Where I lived (I went to Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado), a $500 handbag would have been considered a colossal waste of money. Grown-ups looked and acted, well, a lot more like grownups then than they do now. What someone said about tattoos is right: my sister was in the Hell's Angels and had one tattoo about 5" wide on her left shoulder. Men with tattoos on their forearms were usually former sailors.

    One of the excesses of the era was a moral panic over rock music lyrics and devil worshipping. Combined with now-debunked "recovered memories," this led to regular Janes and Joes being accused of bizarre child molestation rituals, musicians sued for violent acts committed by a few of their fans, congressional hearings, and warning labels on records. As absurd as it sounds in 2017, people were sentenced to long stretches in prison on nothing more than the word of heavily-coached pre-schoolers. Closer to home, "cattle mutilations" were attributed--on the news!--to aliens or devil worshippers, rather than predators, scavengers, bacteria and bugs.
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    A lot of that stuff was going on in American classrooms when the Boomers were still trying to figure out how to use their Winky Dink kits. The 1950s in the US were a hotbed of educational experimentation, with the most notable result of that experimentation being the "New Math" fad of the 1960s. The second wave of Boomers were victims of this fad, but it was the -- ah -- "Greatest Generation" that foisted it upon us. To this day I have to do arithmetic on the back of an envelope with a pencil like a fourth-grader because I was taught "New Math."

    But this fad was long gone by the '80s. I was a reporter covering education during the latter years of the '80s, and the real battles were over "Whole Language" reading techniques versus "sound it out" phonics and "See and Say" techniques a la Dick and Jane. I was raised with the latter system and most of the kids I know were raised with the former, and I don't see a lot of difference in the final result, except perhaps for a weakness in spelling. What I did see a lot of were cranks on both sides of the issue, but the vast majority of them on the "back to basics" side, compromising the quality of the education with their endless posturing and filibustering of school boards to the detriment of what actually went on in the classrooms. One filibusterer in particular who operated in my town -- born in the 1930s, alas -- went on to become a prominent figure in the right-wing crackpot-conspiracy-theory world. It really got her goat that the superintendant at the time was named Marx.
    Trenchfriend, vitanola and Michael R. like this.
  14. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The big thing here in the 80s was drugs. We saw far more drug use in the 80s than we ever saw in the 60s. Cocaine was a huge business in my area, and to continue the twenties analogy, people were being shot down dead in their driveways in drug-related "hits," some of them police officers who were on the take. Cocaine was big, big money, and New England was awash in it -- and the infrastructure established then moved on to heroin in the 90s, which helped to give us what we have today.

    I worked in radio with two cocaine addicts. One would snort *while he was on the air,* and you'd hear him snuffling and wheezing as he went. The other was a station executive, with an aqua sport coat, khaki pants, loafers with no socks, and a habit of getting high with women who were not his wife in the bar of one of our sleazier hotels. You always knew when he'd been out on a jag when you came in in the morning and saw him sleeping it off in his office. He was also a high operative in one of the two major political parties, and later held a low-level appointment in the G. W. Bush administration.

    Ah, the 80s. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.
    Trenchfriend and vitanola like this.
  15. plain old dave

    plain old dave A-List Customer

    East TN
    Well, as a child of the 80s, I have a few comments; graduated high school in 1989.

    -Firstly, so much of what's in the media is honestly cartoonish. Sure, all the girls at Knoxville Central had big hair, and I remember the strong odor of Ultra Net outside the girls' bathrooms. All told, though, there was very little of the garish neon that so characterizes period pieces in the media. Pegged pants and stonewashed jeans, sure, but neon and stuff like in The Breakfast Club was mainly just in the movies. I was a more or less hardcore greaser; Ducktail haircut and sideburns, T-shirts and Levis 501s almost every day.

    -Working. Having a part time job in high school was normal back then.

    -Cars. I drove a 1980 Plymouth Volare in school (with fuzzy dice, remember I was a greaser), and it was on the newer end of the median. 60s and 70s classics were the cheap beaters back then, things like Monte Carlos, Cutlasses, and the occasional Camaro, and I well remember shoehorning seven people into a '75 Capri going to school, and weekends at Norris Lake in one of the gang's dad's '77 Dodge D-100 we called Sept-Sept. We all took French, see.

    -A lot of things people did back then would get you UNDER the jail now; rolling yards and all sorts of deviltry on Friday and Saturday nights.

    -Music. Sure, a lot of people were into the hair bands, but 60s-70s music had its devotees. We wore out a cassette of Centerfield on Saturday nights up at the lake. Creedence, the Allman Brothers, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash... It was JUST starting to be faddish to listen to 60s music when I was in school.

    -Technology. A lot of places in East TN didn't have 911 service, and having a touch tone phone was slightly toney if you'll pardon the pun. As were answering machines. On TV, you had four channels, ABC (WATE), CBS (WBIR), NBC (WTVK on UHF) and PBS (WSJK out of Sneedville, how I discovered Doctor Who) and if the President was on, you were missing whatever show you wanted to see. Except if the local affiliate decided to either play The Cosby Show late or on another night. I remember a couple times the local news wasn't on til 11:45 in the evening.
  16. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    If you Youtube Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n Roll," you'll see what real people (young people in the audience) wore vs. what entertainers wore. Speaking of music, I prefer the confidence and exuberance of the 80s over today's sensitive, angst-ridden artistes. Music of the late 60s and 70s was still getting a lot of air play, probably because Baby Boomers were such a big market. If I never hear the Stones, the Who or the Beatles again, it'll be too soon.
    Trenchfriend likes this.
  17. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

    Midwest America
    Graduated law school and admitted to the bar: June and November, 1981.

    Got my toe in the door in what became my dream job- after the worst bout of unemployment in my life: October 1982.

    Bought my first car, at age 28, May 1983.

    Dream job became full time: December 1983.

    Got married, August 1985.

    Bought first home, June 1986.

    Became a father, October 1989. Lost my mom the same month.

    So, for me, it was a pretty eventful decade, and for the most part good times. As to pop culture, world events, or such.. my memory is pretty foggy. Not from drugs or booze, but because so many other plates were spinning that I couldn't keep track.
    Michael R. and Trenchfriend like this.
  18. HadleyH1

    HadleyH1 One Too Many

    Horrible hair, too much glitter and too large shoulder pads! :eek::D

    on the other hand..

    some lovely music and .....

    " Tear Down that wall Mr Gorbachev! " the immortal words of Ronald Reagan! Amazing!!!

    That's the 80s in a nutshell for moi! :D
    Michael R., Trenchfriend and M Hatman like this.
  19. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    This was us as well. We were still on New England Telephone electromechanical switching systems in the 80s -- dial four or five digits for a local call, a dial tone that was a buzz instead of a hum -- and there were quite a few party lines still in use in our neighborhood.

    Television was three network stations and PBS unless you had cable, which gave you Channels 38 and 56 out of Boston, Channel 17 out of Atlanta, C-Span, CNN, the Pat Robertson Christian Broadcasting Network in all its toupeed "Ronald Reagan is God's Chosen Agent for our times" glory, ESPN -- which showed little other than Australian Rules Football and live ping-pong from China -- and a few other weird channels which seemed to show nothing but color bars whenever i happend to tune them in. There was also a "weather channel" which was basically just a relay of a radar screen from NAS Brunswick which showed storms as a stationary bilious green blot. The first thing I did when I got a job was sign up for cable, and the quality movies they showed on Channel 38 were well worth the $17 a month it cost.

    The most inescapable television rerun of the '80s was M*A*S*H, which ran up to three times a day in some markets. I know most episodes by heart, despite not having seen any since about 1989.

    Movies stunk. Seriously, they stunk. The best movie experience I had in the '80s was seeing Abel Gance's "Napoleon" in all its glory at the Fox Arlington in Santa Barbara in 1983, and that picture was made in 1927. Of all the eighties movies I saw when they came out the only one that really made an impression on me was Bill Murray's "The Razor's Edge," and that only because, walking out of the theatre after the show I heard people saying "Wow, I didn't get any of those jokes at all."

    It annoyed me in the '80s when you could no longer easily find 1930s music on radio. It was very common in the '70s to hear swing bands on "middle-of-the-road" stations, but the greasy fist of boomer culture closed over it and squashed it out by the eighties, leaving the radio a wasteland of regurgitated "oldies" and lip-glossed sythno-pop. Thank Guglielmo that WNEW and Hazen Schumacher's "Jazz Revisited" were still around for a few more years.

    Other eighties impressions: the smug, arrogant face of Oliver North and the vapid smile of Fawn Hall, the wormy adventures of James Watt and Michael Deaver, that idiot MacNamara thinking Calvin Schiraldi could pitch, the faces of unemployed poultry workers damning the soul of Bernie Lewis, telling jokes like "What do you call a thirty-five-year-old stockbroker in suspenders? Waiter!," thinkng "AbScam" was the dumbest name for a news story I'd ever heard, getting a three-bell alert on the UPI machine when Our President joked into an open mike about "bombing Russia in five minutes," feeling heartbroken when Samantha Smith was killed, watching Bob Hope not even bothering to read the cue cards well anymore, thinking no one could ever possibly be dumb enough to buy "Trump: The Game," wondering why they discontinued "Mug-O-Lunch" when it was a good product, and sitting in my car at McDonald's eating a McChicken sandwich when the news came on the radio that Rudy Vallee had died. You people have your Elvis moment, that was mine.
  20. 3fingers

    3fingers Practically Family

    I was in my 20's through the 80s. Meh. It was just another decade we lived through. No more or less ridiculous than those that have come and gone since. Hindsight will show us the excesses of the current time as well.

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