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How to Do Hollywood the Wrong Way – Part Two

Feeling like a vampire, I threw on some shades and on four hours of sleep, I went to retrieve my car at the scene of the crime. I can tel...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

#TBW – Weren’t the 80’s Awesome?!

I was feeling sort of Back to the Future this weekend so I decided to go back to the past and have a throwback weekend. What has caused this sudden bout of nostalgia you might ask? The 2016 election, activating my Samsung Galaxy 7 phone, domestic affairs, foreign affairs, the list could go on and on. While I enjoy all of the benefits of this century I sometimes find myself longing for the days when all of life’s issues could be solved in one John Hughes movie.

During most of the 80’s, I was a teenager. My function in life was to go to school, play sports, get good grades and just have fun. Unlike today where those carefree days have been replaced with grown up concerns like paying the bills, job expectations, ad nauseum. Now whenever I revisit that time in my life, usually through watching popular movies of that era, I am struck by how totally unrealistic the situations depicted are and that in real life the repercussions would be very different.

Allow me to give you some examples to illustrate my theory. First, let’s talk about Flashdance.  What a feeling, right? The story centers around an 18-year-old welder named Alex who lives in Pittsburgh. She resides in a fabulous loft apartment in a converted warehouse and moonlights as an exotic dancer. In her spare time, she works out like a maniac to some cool tunes and hangs out with the boss of the steel mill in his killer Porsche 911. When I saw this film back in the day, I never questioned anything. Now as an adult, I have to stifle the laughter when I think of the implausibility of this plot.

In looking at the credits, I see one of the writers is Joe Eszterhas.  Mr. Eszterhas is known for two screenplays. Basic Instinct and Showgirls.  I must confess I do enjoy Showgirls because it is totally laughable.  It is almost like a 90’s version of Flashdance except it takes place in Vegas with nudity, crazy dancing, and tremendously bad acting. As for Basic Instinct, it gave us Sharon Stone.  Let that sink in for a moment. What is her claim to fame? A skin tight white dress and no underwear. I imagine she was the inspiration for countless starlets of today like Lindsay Lohan, the entire Kardashian clan, Paris Hilton (who?) and Britney Spears.

Back to the plot of Flashdance, I have questions. Welding is a very detailed discipline not to mention dangerous. When did Alex find time to study this technical job? In shop class during high school? Even if this was the case, would she be able to be hired by a steel mill after a year of making ash trays at the local trade school? Furthermore, at 18, where did she get the cash to foot the bill for that tremendous warehouse loft? Probably combining her tips as an exotic dancer with her salary. Now, I have been to strip clubs. I have never been to a club that involves a pull chain and a bucket of water.  Nor did any of the girls run up to a wall and do a back flip. As for Alex’s dalliance with her boss, Nick Hurley, all I can say is really? He seems incredibly older than her (not that there is anything wrong with that) and isn’t there an HR department at that mill? Seriously? In today’s corporate landscape, Alex would sue Nick for sexual harassment and Nick would resign from his position.

Another beloved movie from that era was Footloose. Now, I love me some Kevin Bacon but in retrospect how did this concept even get greenlighted by a studio? Listen, the soundtrack was excellent and I spent many a night dancing to the theme song in college. One time, I even jumped on a table with some friends but that is a whole other blog. Getting back to the subject at hand, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) is a Chicago teen who is uprooted from his urban existence and transplanted smack dab in the middle of East Kadumptruck, Iowa. Okay, that is not the name of the town and if you are from Iowa I apologize. Des Moines is the best! In this Iowa burg, no one dances and no one listens to the devil’s music which would be rock and roll.

First of all, if it weren’t for small towns in the Midwest how would John Cougar Mellencamp have a career or even Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen? Is this town in “Little House on the Prairie” or just a weird cult haven that lets a minister (played by master thespian, John Lithgow) dictate how people choose to live their lives? Of course, Ren has the misfortune of taking up with the minister’s daughter and all hell breaks loose. I could go on and on about Footloose but you get the picture. In the end, that sinister rock music wins, everyone sees the light, and it is time to boogie! If only real world issues could be solved with some Duran Duran and the Electric Slide!  We could say goodbye to all the scary threats in our present day world.

The last film I want to talk about is the classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  This movie is the inspiration for a 90’s band called “Save Ferris.” “Save Ferris” had some brief success with a remake of an old 80’s tune, “Come on Eileen,” by “Dexy’s Midnight Runners.” In this story, Ferris is a high school kid who decides that he is going to take the day off. In an elaborate plan worthy of a bank robbery, Ferris breaks his girlfriend Sloane and his best friend Cameron out of school for some hi jinx. They take Cameron’s dad’s classic car for a spin, go to the art museum, have dogs at a Cubs game and even sing on a float in a parade in downtown Chicago. Meanwhile, the high school principal becomes obsessed with tracking Ferris down to prove that he is playing hooky.

Let me just say from firsthand experience, this guy would have been busted in the 80’s. I know this because I tried to sneak out of school in the middle of the day. Granted, I went to a lock down federal penitentiary Catholic school but my plan was thwarted. The vice principal grabbed me right as I was walking out the side door of the school theater.  Ferris definitely would have been busted today with all of the social media. Someone would capture his adventures and then put them on You Tube. Amazingly enough, he appeared on television while singing on the float and no one found out! It seems like everyone was blissfully unaware.

In today’s world, the principal of Ferris’ high school would probably be brought up on charges of harassment and stalking a student. This would lead to his public disgrace and a tearful resignation with his stalwart family by his side.  Cameron, Sloane, and Ferris would have been suspended from school and the consequences would definitely not have been feel good.


I still enjoy each of the films that I mentioned. They are fun and they are frivolous. Their main goal is to entertain. After all, that is why we go to the movies or listen to that new song or read that latest best seller is to escape from our lives. I am fortunate to have grown up in a time that was free of some of the issues that we face today. I will forever be a child of the awesome 80’s! 
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