Friday, December 12, 2008

Flashback Friday: 1988


As I mentioned in a previous post, for some strange reason, I have thought a lot about 1988 this year and have no clue why. As an example of "the law of attraction", this intense and nostalgic focus on one of the greatest years of my life culminated in one of the best gifts I've gotten this year...several former classmates requesting me to join Facebook. I hadn't thought about most of them since my family moved away from the army base in Germany to Georgia twenty years ago.

My parents bought a house in Stone Mountain and have lived in it for twenty years (my dad paid off his mortgage this month). The picture above is me around Christmas time in 1988. I was a junior in high school.

To get you back into the mindset of 1988...throw away your cell phone, iPods, laptops, and PDAs. Forget about YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Myspace, eBay, and everything related to the World Wide Web. MTV still played music videos and rap was not yet mainstream (Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina" a year later would make rap truly popular for many white folks).

Reagan was somewhat popular and Bush was elected president. Quayle was the baffling Vice Presidential pick, who got served in the debate during the most famous of rebukes ("I knew Jack Kennedy. He was a friend of mine. And you are no Jack Kennedy!"). The younger Bush was still an alcoholic who was given an ultimatum by his wife around his 40th birthday that it was either the booze or her.

Apartheid still existed in South Africa as well as communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall looked as permanent as the Great Wall of China.

The Winter Olympics was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada while Seoul, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics.

My dad took me on a trip to Paris in the summer, before we moved back to the States.


Gorbachev with Reagan and Bush in New York City.

Images of Dukakis in a tank is credited as dooming his campaign because he supposedly looked ridiculous. I don't think it's any more ridiculous than Bush in his stupid flight suit with leg straps to enhance his manhood and the Mission Accomplished banner in the background.

The infamous Vice Presidential debate between Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, who compared himself to John F. Kennedy...a no-no, since Senator Bentsen counted JFK as a personal friend.

In the spring of 1988 at Fulda American High School in Fulda, Germany, I acted in my second play (I was an extra in a play in the 7th grade). Our Town was minimalist set design and so few teenagers auditioned that several teachers had to play parts. I was Wally Webb, the younger brother of the main character. It was fine by me, because I had only a few lines to learn. I loved participating in the play, though, and caught "the acting bug."

In the fall of 1988, at Clarkston High School in Clarkston, Georgia, I made the school play, You Can't Take it With You. In this play, I was the IRS agent who intrudes on the eccentric family to threaten the grandfather with back taxes. The drama teacher at this school was famous for her foul temper (she was a great prep for boot camp), but she had a good heart. It was an incredible bonding experience with the other actors. I was even threatened to be put on microphone because my voice wouldn't project well. A student who had graduated in the spring agreed to play the role of a Russian guy and he served as my acting coach. After he suggested that I model my character after the EPA guy in Ghostbusters, I knew how to perform my role.

To this day, I think back in amazement that I was able to memorize lines and most important, to muster up anger in my role as I threaten the grandfather. I remember during the rehearsals, I had a hard time mustering up the anger. But when the costumes and make up were on, the overhead lighting in a darkened cafeteria beamed towards the stage, and people sitting in chairs watching us...the anger I needed came naturally. I didn't forget my lines and it was a rush when I exited the stage to chill out backstage, knowing my brief appearance was done. It was a high, and incredible, emotional high.

Though I would lose my interest in acting, I still think back in awe over the fact that I performed in two plays in 1988. On the surface, there is not much in common between Our Town and You Can't Take it With You. However, the theme is pretty much the same. Both plays are about loving life as you live it. Both reference death, for you can't take anything with you when you die. It's about how you live. If there were two plays to act in, I couldn't have chosen a better two to have been a participant of. If you've never seen either play, next time you hear about one being performed in a high school, college, or community theater near you, go see it! Especially You Can't Take it With You! It is hilarious! We kept laughing during our first few rehearsals. Fortunately, the repetition of practice made it less funny so we could perform it seriously.

My favourite television show of 1988 was Moonlighting. I loved that show. The last episode would air in May 1989, closing the book on one of the quirkiest, funniest, and coolest shows on TV. I'd love to see a film version with new actors in the roles.

One of my favourite films in the summer of 1988 was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It was one of the coolest films I had ever seen...as the mix of animation and reality was advanced (making the animated / live action sequences in Mary Poppins and Pete's Dragon look amateurish) and so many cameos of famous cartoons. The story was only so-so, but who could forget Jessica Rabbit's torch song intro and the detective's dismissal of the men in the club as "having a thing for rabbits" before he starts drooling over her himself?

Other films I loved that summer included Die Hard, Coming to America, Big Business, and Big.

But my favourite film that I saw in 1988 was Three Men and a Baby (released during Christmas season 1987 stateside, but didn't arrive in military theaters in Europe until the start of summer). It was funny to see three selfish bachelors change because of one adoreable little baby.

My favourite album of the year was the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, which rode high on the Billboard Album charts all year long, even though the movie had been released the previous summer. It was a musical phenomenon, with single after single being played on the radio and a concert tour quickly followed. This was the one album that all of my friends loved. We were all crazy about Dirty Dancing at Fulda American High School. Boys and girls loved it. The soundtrack was a perfect mix of 80s pop and 60s songs that weren't overplayed or overly familiar. I simply couldn't listen to it enough, and neither could Americans. A second soundtrack was released and hit the top of the charts as well. Now, you can buy a CD that has both soundtracks on one disc and arranged in the same order as played in the film.

My favourite song of the year was Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." It was a powerful ballad with an equally powerful message. It was one of the examples I used to argue with the evangelical youth group leaders when they told us to give up our secular music and listen only to Christian music. To their eyes, rock music was all about SEX, SEX, SEX. And when it wasn't, it was about drugs. If the song didn't mention God or Jesus, they said we shouldn't listen to it. I've always been a rebel, so no one tells me what music to listen to. Especially for a guy who grew up on pop music ("Grease" by Frankie Valli was the first song I remember liking a lot, in the summer of 1978). Most songs, I argued, were about love. Okay, maybe Madonna's "Like a Virgin," George Michael's "I Want Your Sex," and Huey Lewis and the News' "I Want a New Drug," gave pop a bad name to evangelical Christians, but how can they argue against "Man in the Mirror" and "We Are the World"?

If I were to rank my favourite songs of 1988, the following would make my Top Ten list:

1. "Man in the Mirror," Michael Jackson
2. "One Moment in Time," Whitney Houston
3. "Love is in Need of Love Today," George Michael
4. "Never Gonna Give You Up," Rick Astley
5. "Im Nin' Alu," Ofra Haza
6. "Make Me Lose Control," Eric Carmen
7. "Foolish Beat," Debbie Gibson
8. "When It's Love," Van Halen
9. "Look Away," Chicago
10. "Perfect World," Huey Lewis and the News

And the following represent all the other songs I loved in the year 1988 (in no ranking order). Listening to any of these songs brings back a lot of memories. Simply put, 1988 was a great year. Truly among the best. Hopefully this will be it for my nostalgia about 1988. I'm grateful that my friends from 1988 pestered me a week ago to join Facebook. Life has been an amazing dream since then. Now, it's time to focus on other things and see just how true this "law of attraction" truly is!

"Put a Little Love in Your Heart," Al Green and Annie Lennox
"Waiting for a Star to Fall," Boy Meets Girl
"Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird (Medley)," Will to Power
"Hands to Heaven," Breathe
"How Can I Fall?" Breathe
"One Good Woman," Peter Cetera
"Kokomo," Beach Boys
"Love Changes Everything," Climie/Fisher
"Need You Tonight," INXS
"Got My Mind Set On You," George Harrison
"Groovy Kind of Love," Phil Collins
"Angel," Aerosmith
"She's Like the Wind," Patrick Swayze & Wendy Fraser
"What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)," Information Society
"Wishing I Was Lucky," Wet Wet Wet
"I Should Be So Lucky," Kylie Minogue
"Wishing Well," Terence Trent d'Arby
"Wild, Wild West," Escape Club
"Seasons Change," Expose
"Sweet Child of Mine," Guns 'n' Roses
"Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car," Billy Ocean
"The Flame," Cheap Trick
"Where Do Broken Hearts Go," Whitney Houston
"Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard
"Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)," Samantha Fox
"Tell It To My Heart," Taylor Dayne
"Red, Red Wine," UB40
"Shattered Dreams," Johnny Hates Jazz
"Girlfriend," Pebbles
"If It Isn't Love," New Edition
"Don't Be Cruel," Bobby Brown
“Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do?” Steve Winwood
"I Get Weak," Belinda Carlisle
"What Have I Done To Deserve This?" Pet Shop Boys w/ Dusty Springfield
"Sign Your Name," Terence Trent d'Arby
"Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin
"Mercedes Boy," Pebbles
"Rocket 2 U," The Jets
"Fast Car," Tracy Chapman
"I Want Her," Keith Sweat
"Say You Will," Foreigner
"The Promise," When In Rome
"The Valley Road," Bruce Hornsby and the Range
"Valerie," Steve Winwood
"Just Like Paradise," David Lee Roth
"Piano In The Dark," Brenda Russell
"Don't Shed A Tear," Paul Carrack
"Nobody's Fool," Kenny Loggins
"Yeke Yeke," Mory Kante
"Ella, Elle l'a," France Gall
"Tomorrow People," Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
"All This Time," Tiffany
"Out of the Blue," Debbie Gibson
"Please Don't Go Girl," New Kids on the Block
"Parents Just Don't Understand," DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
"Nightmare on My Street," DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
"Nobody's Perfect," Mike and the Mechanics

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