I slipped my father’s aviator sunglasses onto my face under the red bandanna I had tightly strapped around my head. I sauntered through the cold storage doors to the full length mirror in his bedroom. I stared at the 12 year old facing me, complete with fishnet t-shirt and long-sleeved, red matching knit undershirt beneath, blue sweat pants with the corporate logo from my father’s company hidden beneath Bruce Jenner-style shorts. My socks were pure off-white, another product of my dad’s dresser, and the shoes: pink and purple Vans. I was a rainbow of fruit flavors. A costume designer for a John Hughes film could not have done better. It was perfect. I was perfect. I was a break dancer, and I was ready to break.
Cable network devoted to round-the-clock entertainment coverage, often determined by the promotional agendas of its subjects. E! was originally founded in 1987 as “Movietime,” a channel sinking under heavy rotation movie trailers and stale infotainment segments; in 1989, the network was sold to a cooperative including HBO, Warner Communications, and United Artists (Disney/ABC and cable operator Comcast bought majority control in January, 1997).
Lee Masters, creator of such MTV successes as Remote Control and The Week in Rock, was appointed to mastermind the restructuring of the network; his dedication included frequent donning of a mohawk wig shaped like the E! logo.
The channel relaunched in 1990, rolling out new long-form programming, much of it produced on the cheap, including the talk-show round-up Talk Soup and a video syndication of print columnists calledThe Gossip Show. E!’s big draws are its televised version of Howard Stern’s radio show, and its reruns of… Continue reading
Palm Springs golf tournament named after the late talk-show host (and former paramour of supermacho actor Burt Reynolds) that occasions the “biggest lesbian party of the year.”
Every March thousands of gay women converge on the town for a series of dances and balls loosely associated with the Nabisco-sponsored event.
Palm Springs itself is something of a gay tourist mecca: in the official visitors’ guide, the Greek letter lambda identifies dozens of gay accommodations in the town.Number of View :762
Hapless hero of the wildly popular comic strip that bears his name; white-collar schmo who resembles Bart Simpson in a curiously erect necktie. In 1989, Scott Adams (b. 1957) started drawing cartoons about the rigors and inanities of modern corporate life to kill time during boring meetings at Pacific Bell.
The comics proved Adams’s ticket out of the boardroom and into unexpected stardom; his drawings and observations now appear in three best-selling books (including corporate survival guide, The Dilbert Principle), some 1,200 newspapers, and numberless fluorescent cubicles nationwide.
With keen fellow feeling, Adams riffs on office politics, management-speak, lamebrain bosses, and the generally demeaning experience of mid-level office dwellers. In Dilbert, corporate life is a sort of purgatory; hence the occasional appearance of Phil From Heck, the Prince of Insufficient Light, who takes care of business a little too insignificant for… Continue reading
The spiritual godfather of cyberpunk science fiction, Philip K. Dick wrote more than 40 novels and dozens of short stories that envisioned alternate worlds only barely held together by the plaster and greasepaint of quotidian reality.
A prolific master of ’50s pulp sci-fi, Dick’s first masterpiece was his award-winning alternative history of postwar America, The Man in the High Castle (1962). Propelled by scotch and speed, Dick’s ’60s work involved increasingly fantastic scenarios of looped time, nested hallucinations, unreliable memory, and paranoid despair.
In 1974 the burned-out author experienced a revelatory “divine invasion” sent courtesy of a Vast Active Living Intelligence System, or VALIS. Dick’s novels The Divine Invasions (1981), VALIS (1981), and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) represent his subsequent attempts to reconcile radical ontological doubt with ethics based on human empathy.
Some of Dick’s more influential works include his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?… Continue reading
Popular late-night HBO cable show created in 1992 by rap mogul Russell Simmons. Originally hosted by Martin Lawrence, Def Comedy stood out from the glut of televised comedy by exclusively showcasing black stand-ups and emphasizing forcefully delivered blue jokes.
Weekly, a series of raunchy turns would whip the Def Comedy Jam audience into a burlesque frenzy with material that flew directly in the face of political correctness, driving a wedge into African-American class and gender divides.
DCJ apologists argue that the overwhelming number of pussy jokes from male comedians is redeemed by the quantity of dick jokes from the show’s female stand-ups; black superstar Bill Cosby, on the other hand, called the program a “minstrel show,” noting that “HBO tells African-Americans, ‘You can’t come on the show unless you undignify your Africanness.’”
Def Comedy Jam moved to Los Angeles for its seventh season, in February 1997. New features included live-action… Continue reading
High-concept coffee bars that combine the ’90s craze for high-end java with burgeoning Internet fever. Icon Byte Bar & Grill in San Francisco, which opened in 1991, claims to be the first café to have installed computer terminals and modem linkups that allow customers to surf cyberspace while sipping a cappuccino.
As of mid-1995, a London-based World Wide Web site devoted to cybercafés cited more than 80 worldwide, with dozens more in the works. They range from high-tech emporiums like Cybersmith in Cambridge, Massachusetts (with 53 terminals available at hourly rates), to mom-and-pop cafés in towns like Boise, Idaho, and Plano, Texas, where oftentimes mystified owners have given into clamoring regulars and installed a single terminal (sometimes coin-operated).
While the thought of hanging out around computer screens may seem oppressive even to those accustomed to socializing through computer networks, cybercafés add a social dimension to what is typically a solitary… Continue reading
1995 bill proposed by Senator Jim Exon, Democrat of Nebraska, to effectively outlaw cybersex. The law–actually an amendment tacked on to the Senate Commerce Committee’s version of the first major reform of U.S.
communications law since the advent of network television–included fines as high as $100,000 and prison terms of up to two years for transmitting material that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent.” The CDA drew an anti-censorship howl on the Internet and mockery from those acquainted with the impossibility of enforcing such restrictions.
A “dial-a-porn” phone sex law with similarly broad language was judged an infringement on free speech by the Supreme Court in 1989; a dubious Court heard oral arguments over the CDA in 1997 after lower courts blocked its enforcement.
Exon explained the CDA soon after its proposal, saying, “The first thing I was concerned with was kids being able to pull up pornography on… Continue reading
Perpetually precocious sibling dyad responsible for the most feted and controversial American cinematic oeuvre of the last decade. Joel (b. 1955), an NYU film school graduate, is nominal director, while Ethan (b. 1958), a Princeton philosophy grad, is ostensible producer.
Nevertheless their six-feature-film output is a full-blown collaboration (originally using the joint pseudonym Roderick James), with the brothers’ collectively rampant obsessions providing the occasion for recasting the history of American film in a series of droll homages that blend arch parody and terminally black comedy.
Their 1984 debut, Blood Simple, for instance, was a studious replication of noir classics, while the 1987 follow-up Raising Arizona amped the classic screwball comedy with hyper-farcical conceits and Miller’s Crossing (1990) reworked 1930s gangster classics.
Critics have responded with anxiously searching comparisons to everyone from James M. Cain to Dostoevsky (though The New Republic’s Stanley Kauffman says simply “I think they’re pretentious, affected bores”).… Continue reading
Outrageously dressed, aggressively whimsical, attention-seeking young nightlife denizens. The epithet “club kids” gained currency in 1988, when a New York magazine cover story featured a posse of young nightcrawlers who managed to parlay their exhibitionist antics and fondness for glitzy, flamboyant getups into budding careers. Paid by promoters just to show up and be ogled by the less-fabulous clubgoers, the most enterprising of the bunch–Michael Alig, Julie Jewels, Michael Tronn, Mathu, Zaldy, Keoki, among others–were taken under the wing of clubowners, earning as much as $1,000 per party.
Outlandishness was the only common denominator in a look that incorporated glitter and androgyny (false eyelashes, bright red lipstick on men), with a heavy dose of theatricality (faces painted to clownish or ghoulish effect). The club kids’ patron saint is the late Leigh Bowery, a London-based Australian who used his impressive bulk as an artwork in London from the early ’80s until… Continue reading
The crowd was young and racially diverse; house and techno were the music of choice; the original DJs were Barry Weaver and Doc Marten.Number of View :464
Loopy, hangdog actor with an expansive range that can veer from buffoon to matinee idol to psychotic. A graduate of Beverly Hills High, and a nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage appeared under his given name with a bit part in the 1982 teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High and in his uncle’s arty troubled-teen film Rumble Fish (1983); he switched to Cage (an homage to comic book hero Luke Cage and avant-garde composer John Cage) to play a Hollywood punk in love with a mall-roaming Valley Girl (1983).
Cage built his career playing quirky often dark characters in small films (Birdy, 1984; Raising Arizona, 1987; Wild at Heart, 1990), culminating in his Oscar-winning portrayal of an unrepentant alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas (1995). Cage’s method acting is notorious (a tooth was pulled in Birdy and he ate a live cockroach in Vampire’s Kiss, 1989); and his interpretations… Continue reading
New York comics artist and illustrator whose work first appeared in Fantagraphics Books’s porn line, Eros. After updating the “Tijuana bible” tradition (cheaply printed mid-century cartoon smut) in Atomic Age Truckstop Waitresses (1991), which parodied Twin Peaks and Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, Fingerman’s Skinheads in Love (1992) was a naturalistic and truly erotic punk-sex document.
Skinheads got inside a pair of politically correct skins with lives wallpapered by perfectly captured East Village anarchist graffiti and handbills for imaginary hardcore bands. Fingerman’s next major project was White Like She (Dark Horse, 1994).
In this grammatically corrected update of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, a black janitor’s brain is transplanted into a white postpunk female’s head. Fingerman wrote Screwy Squirrel (1995) for Dark Horse before completing his semiautobiographical Minimum Wage (1995).Number of View :2513
A former Long Island ice-cream-truck driver and New York City fireman, Buscemi first appeared as an angry HIV-positive rock musician in Parting Glances (1986).
He subsequently became a Joel and Ethan Coen regular, appearing variously as a gangster (Miller’s Crossing, 1990), quirky bellhop (Barton Fink, 1991), beatnik barkeep (The Hudsucker Proxy, 1994), and sallow hitman (Fargo, 1996).
Buscemi’s widest exposure came as the surly anti-waitstaff hustler Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs (1992), a role that triggered work in a panoply of pathology-chic films including Desperado (1992) and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995).
His familiarity with New York’s downtown film scene was put to use in his portrayal of a harried director in both Tom DeCillo’s Living… Continue reading
Resurgent African-American film genre of the early ’70s. Blaxploitation movies were low- budget, luridly stylized anti-establishment parables–in most cases, urban action flicks populated by pimps, pushers, and prostitutes. As such they were a marked departure from the type of ’60s films which had featured assimilationist black leads in the Sidney Poitier mold.
The blaxploitation genre offered a crowd-pleasing formula of outsize personae, preposterous costumes, self-consciously ridiculous dialogue, and state-of-the-art soul/funk soundtracks. Key films of the cycle include Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (dedicated “to all the Brothers and Sisters who have had enough of The Man,” the 1971 movie grossed an impressive $10 million-plus); Gordon Parks’s 1971 Shaft; Parks’s son, Gordon Jr.’s 1972 Superfly.
The statuesque Pam Grier, star of Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), was the undisputed queen of blaxploitation.
Reacting to the box-office success of the early blaxploitation films, white Hollywood producers and directors churned… Continue reading
Community of writers (chiefly Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, William Burroughs) who in turning their lives into art passed along an intimate and transparent portrait of a literary generation in the wake of WWII and Korea.
Beats (or beatniks) were often invoked in the early ’90s as an influence on contemporary youth culture; superficial similarities between the decades included fashion statements like baggy pants, sneakers, crewcuts, and goatees; spoken word and coffee bar culture; and chatty, spontaneously composed jazz-hip-hop.
There was a modest spate of associated culture-products, such as re-issued books, a Rhino Records CD compilation, and a Francis Ford Coppola movie of Kerouac’s 1957 book On the Road, which attracted thousands of “wannabeats” to an open casting call in New York.
Meanwhile, The Gap, Cappio iced coffee, and even Wendy’s hamburgers were invoking the Beat aesthetic in the name of commerce. All of which bespeak a cultural time… Continue reading
Ambitious, syndicated sci-fi television program on a five-year mission to tell the novel-like story of a galactic war in the 23nd century. The brainchild of veteran TV writer/producer J. Michael Straczynski (b. 1954), Babylon 5 has grown into a substantial cult success after a slow start, just as Star Trek did three decades before.
Poorly rated in its first four seasons, B5 garnered hardcore support from, among others, science fiction aficionados, NASA scientists, and Beltway politicians. (The latter group reportedly admire the machinations of the series’ emperors, despots and presidents.) Unlike the Trek universe, which is populated by prosthetically-enhanced variations of its human heroes, Babylon 5′s aliens and technology look other-worldly thanks to the show’s use of computer generated effects.
With its seven galactic empires, and principal cast of twelve characters, B5 is an addictive show that, like The X-Files, requires constant attention for the viewer to keep up with… Continue reading