Thursday, May 28, 2015

POP WAS STILL TOP

In the early nineties, music was polarized by the alternative grunge movement and gangster rap. However, a closer look at that time would show that pop and middle of the road rockers were still on top of the music charts. Pop female artists such as Mariah Carey and Celine Dion were becoming mega stars. Middle of the road rockers like Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Billy Joel were releasing songs and getting heavy radio airplay.

WHEN TIMES WERE NOT SO EASY

In 1994, Starbucks introduced its first drive through store. The company was hesitant at first to do this becomes they felt it would hinder from people coming into their store for the atmosphere and the leisure. But, the lure of fast and convenient ways to get the caffeine high won over. In the early nineties, Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops, such as Coffee Bean, were exponentially growing their chains. The Starbucks expansion took off when Howard Schultz bought the company from the former owners in 1987. In 1990 there were 84 Starbucks outlets in the US. By 1994 the number of stores reached 425. At the end of 2013, there were 19,676 Starbucks locations worldwide.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

THE PAST WAS RETRO TOO!



21 years ago this month, The Flintstones movie, based on the 1960's cartoon series, was released. The movie was a box office success, though critics claimed that the content dealt with too many adult issues to be entertaining for kids (hey, even kids have to learn some time). At any rate, the release of this movie was just a sample of the nostalgic fascination that was going on at that time and continues to this day (ie. our page). In other words, were looking back at the time when we were looking back. Please also see the rebirth of disco music.

THE YEAR SENSATIONALISM BROKE



In 1994, sensationalism and tabloid news took center stage. This was the year that launched tabloid news to its height we see today. The year started with the underpinnings of the Lorena Bobbitt trial and then progressed to the Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal and then, of coarse, climaxed in the summer with the OJ Simpson murder conviction and chase. What also happened was that the Jerry Springer show hired a new producer, Richard Dominick, after the show's ratings were low. The show, which first aired in 1991, was legitimate in it's early days and featured relevant issues such as gun control and homelessness. But ratings when down until the new order took over. Ratings then spiked when the show featured most anything that was crude, obnoxious, outrageous, and sensational. The rest you can say is Shock Television History.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

THE BRITS HAVE INVADED AGAIN



In 1994, the BRITPOP craze that was taking place in England was crossing over to the US. Bands like Blur, Oasis, and Suede were emerging the British alternative music that was influenced by the British guitar pop music of the 1960's and 70's. Further, these bands wrote about strictly British topics and issues, a sort of anti-grunge notion that was taking place there at the time. The crossover was so present in the US that Blur's song "Girls and Boys" was blaring in the clubs of New York in the Summer of 94.

AND THEN ER HAPPENED!

In the fall season of 1994, the hospital drama first aired on NBC. In my opinion, the first two years of the show rank it as one of the best dramas ever in the history of television. The show featured fast-paced situations in the ER but also dealt with personal life issues of the main characters. It had good characters, good acting, and great stories. The first two years also tackled many controversial issues such as AIDS, teenage pregnancy, incest, and a good looking thirty- something year old doctor who got hoards of women (aka. George Clooney). Interestingly, the first year of the show was produced by Steven Spielberg, in collaboration with Michael Crichton, the creator. And, in fact, one of the episodes in the first season was directed by Quinten Terrentino.


IT WASN'T ALL A DREAM


In late 1994, Notorious BIG's career had just gotten underway after he had released his prophetic titled album "Ready To Die". The song from the album, "It's Juicy", was released in the summer of 1994 and chronicles his rags to riches story from a life of poverty to his then current lavish lifestyle as a rap artist. He was instrumental in bringing on East Coast rap to the spotlight when it was dominated by West Coast rap. Unfortunately, this rivalry led to his untimely death in 1997

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

OJ RUNS INTO THE AMERICAN PSYCHE

Around 20 years ago, the whole OJ fiasco was in full swing in a  case of the decade that dragged for
15 months until the jury found the defendant, OJ Simpson, not guilty. This landmark trial fostered many pop culture and societal phenomenon that are still prevalent today. Here are a few:
1. The trial detailed the anatomy of a crime. Questions were raised whether the crimes were premeditated or based on the instinctual rage of the defendant
2. The chase and trial spawned celebrity sensationalism at its best. Fame was made of the personalities involved in the trial(ie. Kato Kaelin)
3. Reality TV found a big audience. The chase and trial did not give rise to reality TV, but it sure helped make it it big after executives found out that people would tune it for all the chase and court related drama.

BEYOND THE SHAHS OF SUNSET, REALLY!

In 1994, reality TV, for better or worst, was making its initial headway.The Real World, still airing today, is a reality show that premiered on MTV in 1992. Back then, the show initially focused on the real subject matters, such as sexuality, politics, and drug abuse, that young adults had to deal with. A central figure was Pedro Zamora, who appeared on the show in 1994 and was openly gay and an educator of HIV/AIDS. That season featured his commitment ceremony with his boyfriend, Sean Sasser. Sadly, the show that year also chronicalled his dealing with his own affliction with AIDS until his passing. Pedro become a mentor not only for those dealing with a deadly disease but also for being open about his sexuality. Please remember, this is still the early nineties.
Well, let's flash forward about 20 years years. Gay rights and gay activism have come a long way, one has to admit. But an overlooked figure in this movement is the star of the reality show, Shahs of Sunset, Reza Farahan. Yes, the show has it's critics and haters. But one can not deny the courage that Reza has endured in being openly gay on the show. I know that it's 2015, but one must understand that the Reza is opening up in front of a community that has had a long history of being closed in this matter and many would say in a community that has shunned this issue.
Besides his sexuality, Reza Farahan also transcends the religious divide between the Muslims and Jewish Iranians in Los Angeles. For one thing, he is both a Jew and an Muslim and not afraid to assimilate with either identity. He is naturally a uniting figure. I can see this man soon breaking out from Shah's and having his own reality or talk show.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

BEFORE THERE WAS THE BLACKBERRY, THERE WERE CRANBERRIES

In the early nineties, The Cranberries, an Irish alternative band, became a major act in the alternative and, for the most part, the national scene. In 1994, they released their second hit album "No Need To Argue". With hits from the album such as "Ode To My Family" and "Zombie" and behind the impeccable voice of lead singer Doloris O' Riordan, The Cranberries were achieving great mainstream success in the US. Although, they were an alt band, there songs did have pop appeal, in addition, to certain songs having heavy guitar hooks. The angelic voice of Riordan stood in contract to the hard guitar chords in some of their tracks on this record, but this formed a winning ingredient. This wasin contrast to the their breakout album, Everbody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We".  However, it helped formed their later identity, as did the lyrical content of their music. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

FADS GO UP AND DOWN

In the early nineties,  Bungee Jumping was a major fad (not gonna lie, never tried it and probably never will). This activity involves jumping from a tall structure such as a bridge while being held by an elastic cord. The cord stretches and the jumper oscillates up and down until the energy in the cord is all released. Injuries and deaths have been reported with this activity. Please take caution!


WHY SUPPLEMENTS CAN NOW OFFER TO MAKE YOU SUPERMAN!


Around a litter over 20 years ago, the DIetary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 was passed. This act, for the most part, allowed supplements to go unregulated without appropriate proof of efficancy or safety of the supplement. The law was passed by the successful lobbying against the tightening restrictions and regulations for supplement labeling. It also classified dietary supplements as foods rather than drugs, hence lower regulations for them. Seen here is a commercial to help pass the law at the time. Mel Gibson is being arrested for eating Vitamin C. After more than 20 years, this law now has made it feasable for just about any kind of supplement to be freely sold in the open market. In fact, vitamins and supplements are now sold in outlets such as the 99 Cent Store and at your local swap meet and flee markets. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3BS1ORI8o


Friday, May 8, 2015

WHAT DO TOM BRADY AND JOHN BOBBIT'S BALLS HAVE IN COMMON?

The answer is simple and easy to understand. But it needs a little history lesson of some, oh, 21 or 22 years ago. You see, in the early nineties, the country had already had  its taste of sensationalized stories. For instance, in the late eighties, there was the whole Tammy Faye Baker affair and who can  forget the Gary Hart national non-news worthy incidents. Now well into the 1990's, sensationalized tabloid news that became headline national news was now the norm (please see the OJ Simpson murder case). And no story was bigger at the time than John Bobbit's tale about how his wife cut off his penis with a butcher knife and drove and threw it out onto a field. What tabloid newspapers could only dream of telling was reality and became national headline news. The abusive relationship between John Bobbit and his wife Lorena took a backseat to the bazaar, yet comical, lead story. Who had time or enough attention span to care about relevant foreign matters at the time, like our nation's involvement in Somolia or the genocide that was taking place in Rwanda. This was more funny and jaw dropping. A president having sexcapades in the White House is much more interesting than his economic long term plan.
Now we do a little, but definitely not complete, list of shock events that made national news since then: The Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan ice skating fiasco, the Marv Albert sex scandal, Janet Jackson's Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, Michael Vick killing dogs, Octomom, Tiger Wood's sex scandals, athlete's using steroids,  Lebron James leaving Cleveland for Miami, Lindsey Lohan going to jail, Donald Sterling making racist comments over a phone conversation, Bruce Jenner's sex change... to name a few.
And now we have come to this. The good looking, husband of a supermodel, four time Superbowl championship winning, football player and every American man's version of having a dream life is going under fire (or under air, pun intended) because he knew that some footballs were deflated by a few psi during last years AFC championship game. This has became center story not just in the world of sports but in the news of the nation. CNN' s Bradley Cooper spent over an hour on this topic on his news show last night. So what is all to make of this and how will this change your life or your neighbor's life. It will because it keeps you occupied. The father of Communism,  Karl Marx,  once referred to religion as the "Opiate of the Masses" in a paper published in 1844. At that time, he contended that religion is a made up phenomenon that was created to keep class divisions that existed stable and to provide a solace for the Proletariat as so they not rebel against the dominant Bourgeoisie. Well today's "religion" comes in the form of Kim Kardashian, The Shahs of Sunset, headline tabloid news, the Internet, etc. Anything not substantial enough to change your life but to take your focus off your mortgage payments, your credit report, your taxes, and the list goes on, is substantial. In this paradox, one can see that the media is providing us a form of escapism from our own real realities. The concept is certainly not new but the delivery has had some changes over time.
But there is good news for Tom Brady as their was for John Bobbit well over twenty years ago (besides the fact that doctors were able to surgically sow his penis back together). This silver lining is the fact that tabloid news, like our attention spans, gets old really quick. Tom Brady's time in center stage will quickly dissipate once the media picks another "interesting" story to barrage us with. So my advice to Tom Brady is to just sit back and take it. Soon enough, your story will be forgotten and just be another notch in the timeline in the long history of sensationalized tabloid news.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

HELL IN THE CITY OF ANGELS BECOMES HEAVEN




In the early nineties, a sub form of alternative music known as grunge that grew from the Seattle area, dominated the national music scene. Idealistic music expressing anger with distorted guitar riffs and loud vocals was addressing the angst, isolation, and despair for the future. This was felt at the time by young people, a cohort termed Generation X. The over the top, self indulgent, glam rock star of the earlier decade was replaced by the more conscience, real, and substantial front men of bands that looked like they could be your friends. Arena rock was ousted by “unplugged”.
This angst was especially felt in Los Angeles. The decade before, in the eighties, LA was experiencing a booming decade that has been referred to as the Big Eighties. In the mecca of entertainment, not only were most films made in LA but most films and songs were written about LA (ie. all the movies centered on the San Fernando Valley and, of course, Randy Newman’s “I Love LA”). The cultural melting pot was thriving. Real estate was at an all time high and businesses were expanding. Major sports teams brought many championships. The four major sports teams won a collective total of nine championships. The hip city with two NFL teams also hosted the 1984 Olympics and was even able to pull in the biggest star in a sport that normally took a backseat in LA sports when the LA Kings acquired Wayne Gretzy in 1988.
But as the nineties rolled in, all this changed. The early nineties brought a short recession nationally, but it hit LA hard, especially the retail sector. Packed malls became empty. The real estate bubble burst. And socially, LA became the focal point of racial and civil unrest with the Rodney King beating and eventual LA riots in the  spring of 1992.  Even our sports teams never won a championship in all the 90’s. There were floods, fires, major earthquakes, and celebrity car chases. The early nineties could be thought of as the dark period in LA history. But even at times when you CAN see the forest from the trees, you can still relinquish in its hidden beauties. In an ironic medley, the dark times in this cosmopolitan city at that time provided me with the glory days of my youth.
The spring and summer of 1992 was a transition culturally on the Sunset Strip. In essence it was the last summer where you would find the long haired rockers or rock fans huddling around outside the nightclubs of the Sunset Strip. Interspersed between those rocker men were pretty dolled up ladies with their own long hairs, wearing short clothes. In retrospect, after the summer of 1992, the LA nightlife became less glam. One can think of a dark, less extravagant scene. The one related to River Phoenix’s overdose at the Viper room in 1993. But to a newcomer to the scene, that was all I knew and it was fun and exciting. LA lost some of its glam from the decade before, but Sunset was still Sunset. Let’s get started at the beginning of the strip going east.
In the early nineties in urban Los Angeles, with a fake ID you could into a club called Bar One, half the time, if the power freak bouncer would let you in. But if you got in, it was a ticket to heaven. Bar One became the first staple of an adult, mature club for myself and my friends. Within its doors, you would be lost to the outside world. The DJ played Captain Hollywood and Ace Of Base along with disco (yes 70’s disco had a revival in the early nineties). And women were at your disposal for a dance, if you had the courage to ask them. One night, I spotted a beautiful boxom blond at a table with a bunch of her friends. I was later told that she was the new hot chick of Baywatch, Pamela Anderson. Another night Mr. Brian Austin Green celebrated his 21st birthday there. Since then, Bar One  has transformed to many other club destinations such as The Room and Trousdale. Now it is home to a 60’s art deco inspired nightclub called Bootsy Bellows.
A couple of blocks away, in the heart of Sunset, there was Roxbury.  Here you could see a view of Sunset boulevard from its window view seating. This was a bar/restaurant/dance club before it turned into the once popular Sushi joint, Miyagees, and now there stands  Pink Tacos. Further east, on La Cienega boulevard, there was the ultra exclusive Gate. The only way you could get into this club was if you were a celebrity or if you forked over at least a hundred bucks for dinner.
But Sunset was not the only outlet for night clubs. In Century City, the club Trips featured not one, not two, but three dance floors and even an outside patio area. It soon would transform to The Century Club, which was popular for most of the 90s. Now the building is demolished and the land is sitting idle.  On the third street promenade in Santa Monica there was the short lasting Renaissance. It featured high ceilings, a spacey dance floor, and free drinks before 10pm on Tuesdays. In Beverly Hills on Canon Dr, there was Tatou. A stair trip downstairs would provide a perfect escape from the outside level world. I once spotted the late Wilt Chamberlain there. For retro fans, there was Club 70’s and the Palladium on Friday nights, which featured flashback KROQ hits. But one of my favorites was a Hawaiian style tropical club joint in Santa Monica on Pico called Kelbos. You could drink tropical drinks from a big bowl with your friends in their eatery before you went dancing on its club floor. But soon Kelbos transformed to a strip club called Fantasy Island.
And so these were the spots of exploits of my youth in the early nineties, living in urban Los Angeles. Soon full adulthood and responsibilities would become paramount. The novelties of youthful club life would become less sweet and less memorable as we grew older.  But that is not surprising. The world becomes much colder when you released into it, rather than looking at it from an edge of a slightly open pot hole cap. At nineteen, your allowed to run through it for a short time, without being still to realize the freeze.