Nov 5: He-Man, Starship Troopers, Wicked Game Video
Plus the Fan Man, Oasis, Nightmare on Elm Street, and British crossover acts
by 11 Points
Modern perspectives on ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia
November 5th, 2021 • Issue 72
This week in nostalgic history
23 years ago, on November 5th, 1998 - Liam Gallagher of Oasis was arrested for attacking a photographer.
Movies have taught us there’s an identical narrative in the rise and fall of every band. They start as scrappy dreamers coming together, collectively revel at the joy of their meteoric rise to fame, egos grow and clashes occur, bad things happen, the band goes their separate ways, and ultimately they either reunite after being humbled or all find some form of individualized peace.
Well… say what you will about Oasis, but they didn’t follow that script. It seemed as if they never had their happy collective rise era — they jumped right from unknowns into the dark moment.
Liam Gallagher punching a photographer on this day in 1998, then, was just another dark incident in a multi-year series of dark incidents. And, perhaps, Oasis’s trope-defying path is why they never found the satisfying end to their movie.
Also on November 5th: Stone Pillow, a CBS TV movie starring Lucille Ball as a homeless woman, premiered (1985)… the Beach Boys’ single Kokomo hit number one (1988)… Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in a revenge chess match (1992)… Corona’s single Rhythm of the Night was released (1993)… George Foreman won boxing’s heavyweight title at age 45 (1994)… the King Size Homer episode of The Simpsons aired (1995)… The Wizard of Oz in Concert event took place (1995)… Bill Clinton was re-elected president of the United States (1996)… Derek Jeter was unanimously voted AL Rookie of the Year (1996)… ODB was arrested for threatening to kill his ex (1998)… Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra were arrested after a fight in a hotel (1999)
28 years ago, on November 6th, 1993 - The Fan Man flew into the Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe boxing match.
Streakers and assorted goons have ran onto the field during various sporting events for decades and they’ll no doubt continue to do for decades to come. But the Fan Man was one-of-a-kind — a stunt (literal) crashing of a sporting event never before seen and never since replicated.
On this day in 1993, amateur paragliding enthusiast James Miller flew above the open-air arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas during a heavyweight title match between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield with a fan-powered, homemade jet pack/parachute combo. Then, midway through the 7th round… Miller touched down. He crashed into the side of the ring then ultimately landed in the crowd, where confused fans and security guards did the only thing that made sense to them in the moment: beat him up.
Miller was knocked unconscious and eventually, when he came to in the hospital, he was arrested for dangerous flying.
In subsequent years he was never forthcoming on why he invaded the fight from the skies. In some interviews he said his landing was accidental; in others, he claimed he was trying to break up the fight because he didn’t like the violence of boxing. There will never be a definitive answer either, as Miller committed suicide in 2002 at age 38.
And we’ve never seen a fan-powered sports invasion since.
Also on November 6th: Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’s Up Where We Belong hit number one (1982)… Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide (1984)… Freddie Jackson’s album Just Like the First Time was released (1986)… Whitney Houston’s album I’m Your Baby Tonight was released (1990)… Meat Loaf’s single I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) hit number one (1993)… the Cleveland Browns announced they were relocating (1995)… The Waterboy hit theaters (1998)… Pokemon: The First Movie hit theaters (1999)… 24 premiered on FOX (2001)… Britney Spears’s album Britney was released (2001)… Winona Ryder was found guilty of shoplifting (2002)
24 years ago, on November 7th, 1997 - Starship Troopers hit theaters.
Starship Troopers, one of the all-time “Was this actually deep or did it just make me feel smart?” movies, is a top entry on the list of movies that bore little resemblance to the books from which they were inspired.
The book Starship Troopers was a sci-if novel written at the peak of the Cold War. You can probably guess who the bugs were a metaphor for in that scenario. The book was a hawkish tale of clear right (the humans) versus clear wrong (the bugs).
The movie, which came out on this day in 1997, didn’t carry through that message. Here, the humans are Nazis — the imagery is literally unmistakable — and the bugs are subtly portrayed as superior fighters whose self-defense is being egocentrically mistaken as aggression by the humans.
That’s not just divergent from the book, it’s 180 degrees divergent. So unlike many of the other go-to names on the “movie didn’t resemble the book” list, like World War Z or I Am Legend, Starship Troopers took the disconnect a step further and completely contradicted the message of its source material.
Also on November 7th: Hall and Oates’s single Private Eyes hit number one (1981)… Sid and Nancy hit theaters (1986)… Tiffany’s single I Think We’re Alone Now hit number one (1987)… Douglas Wilder was elected governor of Virginia, the first Black governor elected in the U.S., and David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City, the first Black mayor of NYC (1989)… Silk Stalkings premiered on USA (1991)… the infamous Lisa’s Pony episode of The Simpsons aired (1991)… Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive and retiring immediately from the NBA (1991)… Paul Reubens pleaded no contest to indecent exposure charges (1991)… the Tony Rich Project’s single Nobody Knows and Whitney Houston’s single Exhale (Shoop Shoop) was released (1995)… Queen released their first album after Freddie Mercury’s death (1995)… Howard Stern’s book Miss America was released (1995)… Madonna’s album Something to Remember was released (1995)… the Mr. Bean film called Bean hit theaters (1997)… Destiny’s Child’s single Say My Name was released (1999)… dot com era sensation Pets.com shut down (2000)… the U.S. presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was too close to call and Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. senate in New York (2000)… Elf hit theaters (2003)
31 years ago, on November 8th, 1990 - Chris Isaak’s single Wicked Game was released.
There weren’t a ton of music videos of the early ‘90s that were filled with sexual imagery; it wasn’t an era of particularly sexy pop music. Wicked Game was an exception — and maybe the most notable exception.
The video, a black-and-white, four-minute grinding frolic on the beach between Chris Isaak and topless supermodel Helena Christenson, was perhaps the main video of the era you wouldn’t want to watch when your parents were in the room.
The video remains an icon of sexy music videos to this day. Any list covering said topic is incomplete without Wicked Game. The video was ranked number one on both Rolling Stone’s sexiest music videos list as well as Fuse’s. It was number four on VH1s list, behind Madonna’s Justify My Love, D’Angelo’s Untitled (How Does It Feel), and Jennifer Lopez’s Love Don’t Cost a Thing.
Also on November 8th: Boston’s single Amanda hit number one (1986)… George H.W. Bush was elected president of the United States (1988)… the Dancin’ Homer episode of The Simpsons aired (1990)… Ransom hit theaters (1996)… the world’s first “internet murder” occurred when a woman in Michigan convinced her online boyfriend to kill her husband (1999)… Andrea Bocelli’s Sacred Arias album was released, and would become the top-selling solo classical album ever (1999)… Al Gore prematurely conceded the U.S. presidential election, giving the presidency to George W. Bush (2000)… The Tick premiered on FOX (2001)… 8 Mile hit theaters (2002)
37 years ago, on November 9th, 1984 - A Nightmare on Elm Street hit theaters.
Is there any clearer vote of no confidence for a horror movie than a release date a week and a half after Halloween?
A Nightmare in Elm Street is a classic now but was not predestined to be so. Virtually every major production company passed on the script, with then-fledgling New Line Cinema as the only ones willing to make it — because, back then as it remains now, horror movies are pretty cheap. Despite the low cost, New Line still ran out of money midway through production and had to find random rich people to finance the remainder of the filming.
But a mix of a good (and thematically interesting) script, a captivating villain, and great casting led to a movie that resonated widely with contemporaneous audiences and future generations of audiences to come. And in this ‘80s stretch when many of the biggest horror franchises ever were making their mark, A Nightmare on Elm Street became one of the undisputed biggest.
Even with its November 9th release.
Also on November 9th: Sugar Ray Leonard retired from boxing for the first time (1982)… Larry Bird and Dr. J got into a mid-game fight (1984)… Jan Hammer’s Miami Vice theme hit number one (1985)… Child’s Play hit theaters (1988)… the Berlin Wall came down (1989)… Dances with Wolves and Child’s Play 2 hit theaters (1990)… Madonna’s album The Immaculate Collection was released (1990)… Prince’s single Cream hit number one (1991)… Queen Latifah’s single UNITY was released (1993)… R. Kelly’s album 12 Play was released (1993)… Evander Holyfield defeated Mike Tyson (1996)… Blackstreet’s single No Diggity hit number one (1996)… the Montreal Screwjob occurred at WWF Survivor Series, changing pro wrestling forever (1996)
37 years ago, on November 10th, 1984 - The famous He-Man episode “The Problem with Power” aired.
As a toy commercial masquerading as a cartoon, episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe intentionally weren’t prioritizing quality plots or nuanced character development. The episodes were about bad guys causing a problem, good guys coming in to solve that problem with cartoonish action, and, if possible, the introduction of a new character or vehicle that could join the toy line.
Only one episode of He-Man ever transcended that pattern. On this day in 1984, the 110th episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe aired and posed a more complex, psychological conundrum.
In the episode, rather than try to defeat He-Man in a battle of strength (100+ consecutive losses warrant a strategy change), Skeletor decides to fight He-Man with mind games. Skeletor gets He-Man to knock over a building during a fight, and tricks He-Man into believing an innocent bystander died as a result.
He-Man goes into a shame spiral that includes throwing his sword into a bottomless pit. (Don’t worry, he’s able to recover it thanks to a giant spider web ex machina.) After He-Man’s crisis of conscience plays out, he comes to learn Skeletor fooled him but, during their climactic battle, He-Man’s friend and very occasional love interest, Teela, nearly dies in a bomb explosion. The sum of the two traumatic events in the episode makes He-Man recognize, for the first time, the potential downsides of his power and his obligations with that power.
This episode is regularly cited as the best of the series and, again, as perhaps the only episode to deal with any real themes or even consequences.
Also on November 10th: Sesame Street premiered (1969)… Microsoft formally announced Windows (1983)… the series finales of Charles in Charge and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse both aired (1990)… Mariah Carey’s single Love Takes Time hit number one (1990)… Candyman’s one hit, Knockin’ Boots, peaked at number nine (1990)… the single Rebirth of Slick by Digable Planets was released (1992)… the episode of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper where Mr. Cooper joined the Golden State Warriors aired (1992)… John Wayne Bobbit was acquitted of marital sexual assault (1993)… Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls hit theaters (1995)… WorldCom and MCI announced their merger, the largest in history at the time at $37 billion (1997)… Little Nicky hit theaters, ending Adam Sandler’s hot streak (2000)… the first iPods were shipped (2001)
26 years ago, on November 11th, 1995 - Take That’s one U.S. hit, Back for Good, peaked at number seven.
It’s tricky, if not impossible, to predict what music acts will translate from one country to the world. Generally, though, if a singer or group becomes huge enough in their home country, they’ll spread beyond their borders and into the other major markets around the world.
One major exception to that theory is Robbie Williams, a hall-of -fame level singer in the U.K. who never, for whatever reason, found real footing with American audiences. Williams got his start in a manufactured boy band called Take That, which was essentially created in a lab to be the British New Kids on the Block. Despite lots of big hits in the U.K., today in 1995 was their peak in the U.S., hitting number seven with their only hit, Back for Good.
Why didn’t Take That resonate with the American audience? For one, the timing was off. Boy bands were hot in the late ‘80s and hot in the late ‘90s in the U.S. — in between, there was zero appetite for them.
But beyond that… sometimes acts just don’t translate. And the lack of translation goes both ways; huge U.S. acts including Dave Matthews Band, Jewel, Pearl Jam, and essentially every country singer or group have never resonated commercially with British audiences.
Also on November 11th: The series finale of Transformers aired (1987)… Anthony Kennedy was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court (1987)… Van Gogh’s Irises sold for a record $53.6 million (1987)… Iron Eagle II hit theaters (1988)… Bad English’s single When I See You Smile hit number one (1989)… Michael Jackson’s single Black or White and Mint Condition’s single Breakin’ My Heart were both released (1991)… Shaquille O’Neal played in his first NBA game (1992)… Interview with the Vampire and The Santa Clause both hit theaters (1994)… the Spartan cheerleaders debuted on Saturday Night Live (1995)… Toni Braxton’s single Unbreak My Heart was released (1996)… Boyz II Men’s final top 10 hit, A Song for Mama, was released (1997)… Columbus announced its new expansion NHL team would be called the Blue Jackets (1997)… Creed’s single With Arms Wide Open hit number one (2000)
Everything old is new again
A look at the reboots, revivals, throwbacks, retro insights, and nostalgia in the news.
The National Toy Hall of Fame inducted American Girl dolls, Risk, and sand as its 2021 class. Toys that were finalists but didn’t make the cut include Battleship, Cabbage Patch Kids, and He-Man.
A real estate company calculated that the Simpsons’ home (in “Springfield, Oregon”) would be worth $449,000 today.
The NBA revealed retro-inspired NBA City jerseys for every team in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary. In a lot of cases it’s the team’s older logo with a new (and sometimes random-ish) color scheme.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its 2021 class on Saturday, including Tina Turner, The Go-Go’s, Foo Fighters, Kraftwerk, and Jay-Z.
Throwbacks and recommendations
The trailer is out for season two of the Saved by the Bell reboot.
A retro-themed product company called Retrospekt is selling a Pepsi-themed Polaroid camera.
Here’s a trailer for a Christmas movie coming on HBO Max all about Neil Patrick Harris’s character remembering his childhood quest for a Nintendo.
Thanks for reading!