As I feel the need to say each time, I am so pleased that interviews continue to be a legitimate part of this little blog of mine! When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the 80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Gioia Bruno. She is best known as one of the members of the group Expose'. Along with Ann Curless and Jeanette Jurado, the beautiful all-girl group had seven Top 10 hits in a row during the late 80s and were the first group ever to have four singles from their debut album reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Those hits include "Point of No Return", "Come Go With Me", "Let Me Be the One" and "Seasons Change". They really set the standard and precedent for all-girl groups to come. Bruno would have to leave Expose' in 1991 for health reasons, but has been able to reunite with them again now. Find out more about Gioia, her group and their hit songs, her inspirational story and much more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Gioia Bruno...
Q: How did someone born in Italy end up growing up in New Jersey?
Gioia: Good Question. I was born on vacation! No Joke! Back then, in Ancient Times, when people traveled by boat to Europe they had to purchase tickets WAY in advance, so after my Mom had an "oops" evening with my Dad and I was conceived there was no turning back on the tickets. Mom and my two brothers and sister were off to Italy and I was on my way.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? When and how did you get your own start in the music industry?
Gioia: I was 5 years old... my big debut was in 1st grade... "Me and My Teddy Bear". Much later, I had a close friend who was going off to college, he was singing and playing guitar with some friends in a garage band and I went to a rehearsal to meet the guys. We hit it off immediately. I sat in for a song or two and ta-da! I became the front person for Kickback and we performed all over the tri-state area (after my mom got me a fake ID of course!)
Q: Who were some of your personal musical influences and who molded and inspired the artist you were back in the 80s and have since become?
Gioia: I was a huge Linda Ronstadt and Pat Benatar fan; I also loved everyone from Earth, Wind & Fire to Led Zeppelin. I enjoy music from every genre and it shows in my writing. I can't commit to one type of music; it depends on my mood on any given day.
Q: Please tell us a little about what you did prior to Expose' and how you came to join the group. What is your understanding of why you, Jeanette Jurado and Ann Curless were brought in to replace the original members?
Gioia: I sang in a number of cover bands before meeting the girls. I was singing in Miami with a show band when I was approached by one of the partners at Pantera Records [Frank Diaz in 1986] who was looking for the third member of Expose'.
I really don't know exactly why the change was made. I was always under the impression that they were the demo singers and that they just sort of fell into it but weren't really interested in it as a career choice.
Expose' was really originally formed back in 1984 with three other girls. That trio released "Point of No Return" in 1985 and it became a hit reaching the top of the dance charts in April of that year. The success of this single led to recording a studio album, but during that process the original girls were replaced by Bruno, Jurado and Curless. There are varying accounts regarding whose decision it was to make the transition, but the new trio took over and did not look back.
Q: Expose' is often classified as "freestyle" dance music. Was freestyle music always an influence or something you grew into?
Gioia: I hadn't ever heard of it, in fact we never really heard the term Freestyle until years after we recorded the Expose' records. Our music crossed over into so many genres that it was never a label we used. We considered ourselves Dance/Pop/R&B and AC, but again, we didn't really think about it much, we just watched it happen and felt great about it every second!
Q: What were your expectations when you joined the group? Had you wanted to be part of an all-girl group? At the beginning, was there any pressure to become great?
Gioia: I really didn't have any expectations, I was hopeful and excited about the newness of it all. I honestly hadn't ever thought about being in an all-girl group, but after meeting the girls felt confident that it was the right decision. No pressure, like Mom always told me, "Just do your best." I'd have to say it goes triple for all of us.
I would say that doing their best worked out pretty nice. They released the album Exposure in February of 1987 and it remains one of the most successful dance albums of all time including those four Top 10 hits and reaching triple platinum status. The first single released was "Come Go with Me" which went to #1 on the Dance chart for two weeks at the end of January and then later peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot in April. It features Jeanette Jurado on lead vocals. Here is the video for "Come Go with Me" by Expose'...
Q: Exposure has to certainly be considered one of the most successful debut albums of the 80s for sure. What memories do you have about recording that album back in 1986? Did you have any feeling that the album was going to receive the response it did?
Gioia: I remember it was a fast process! I think I sang "Let Me Be the One" in three takes and one was a mic check! We just hoped for the best and worked as hard as we possibly could. Strength in numbers I guess.
Q: What can you tell us about the role Lewis Martinee played in the band's success? Do you know any of the inspiration behind the hit songs he wrote?
Gioia: He was our producer and a co-writer on many of our songs. I can't tell you what his inspiration was, I'm just grateful that he had it and that we're still going strong because of it.
Martinee is credited with writing and producing most of the album including all four of the big hit songs. He wrote and produced the original version of "Point of No Return" back in 1985 which was re-recorded for this album with Jeanette Jurado on lead vocals and released as the second single during the summer of 1987. This time the single had success on the pop charts, not just the dance charts, when it reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here is the video for "Point of No Return" by Expose'...
Q: Was it decided right from the start that lead vocals would alternate from song to song? How was it decided who would get to sing lead vocals on each song? Did this ever create any disputes?
Gioia: We all sang many of the songs, it seemed a natural progression. Certain songs just seemed to work for each of us. Arista and Pantera made those decisions [who sang lead] back then. Surprisingly enough it didn't cause disputes, it has always been about the music first. Being part of a group means leaving your ego behind.
Q: You sang lead on "Let Me Be the One". What can you tell us about creating that hit song and your performance on it?
Gioia: I just did what came naturally to me. There's a perfect example of a song fitting the singer. To this day I still love to sing "Let Me Be the One". I don't think I've ever sung it the same way twice; it's a song that allows me to be creative.
"Let Me Be the One" became the album's third successful single when it reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1987 and #2 on the Dance chart. As mentioned, it features Gioia Bruno on lead vocals. Here is the video for "Let Me Be the One" by Expose'...
Q: Any comments about the other hits from that album? "Seasons Change" was quite a departure from your other dance hits that had to feel good to have success with a ballad too. What are your feelings regarding your first #1 hit?
Gioia: With every song came a new challenge and a new reward. "Seasons Change" was the ultimate gift and when it went to #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart we knew that we had really achieved something wonderful. It was an honor we'll never forget or take lightly.
"Seasons Change" was released as the album's fourth single in November of 1987. It was not the typical dance-pop song which had been the case with the first three hits. It was a ballad and became the group's biggest hit when it reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Adult Contemporary chart in February of 1988. It once again features Jurado on lead vocals. Here is the video for "Seasons Change" by Expose'...
Q: What changed for you personally and for the band after this album's success? Were you prepared for attention and all of the other things that come with a pop stardom?
Gioia: I believe we really grew as people after that first record. We kept things in check. Of course there were some difficult times and challenges but we learned so much from each and every one, which is the reason we're still together today and going strong. We're committed to each other and supportive of each other in every way a group of friends can be. Funny thing, back then that attention wasn't what it is today. Paparazzi and the media overall were not nearly as aggressive. We were working so much that we rarely thought about it.
Q: What are some of your best memories and coolest things you were able to do at the height of popularity for Expose'?
Gioia: No waiting in lines! Haha! The Expose' word (or E word as I commonly refer to it) got us into the best clubs everywhere. But seriously, we were always excited about every opportunity that came our way; singing with other artists, television shows, and I remember when we were told we'd be filming our first video we practically fell over!
Q: Expose' videos received lots of exposure on MTV back then. What are your thoughts on the impact that MTV had on music in the 80s, especially in America?
Gioia: I wish MTV would come back as more of a music channel and less of a reality TV channel. I think MTV gave music a face and allowed artists to be seen and express themselves in a new and unique way.
Q: When you have mega hit songs like those, do you (or did you) ever get sick of performing them?
Gioia: Like I mentioned before, I never sing a song the same way twice so it's always fun. Besides, the audience responds as if the songs are still top 10 hits so they constantly keep us pumped up! Their energy is infectious.
Q: What are your feelings regarding those four hit songs from Exposure today 25 years later?
Gioia: We just rerecorded them again so that we can use the new versions in our show and it was so much more interesting and rewarding to be in the studio with the girls this time because we've become such great friends.
Q: It sounds like you, Jeanette and Ann became close friends during your late-80s success as Expose'? Despite all of the exhausting touring and pressure, did you three always get along well? I know you have reunited as Expose' again now, has that friendship continued to grow over the years?
Gioia: I think that I've probably already answered this, but what the hell, I'm happy to answer this over and over because I'm constantly inspired and surprised by these two women. Our friendship has grown immensely and we've grown as people through it all. We're all extremely different and have so much to offer each other because of those differences.
Q: Though the group's second album did not have quite the same success, it still yielded three more top 10 singles. What feelings do you have about What You Don't Know and the songs on that album?
Gioia: That was a tough album for us. We weren't being properly compensated for the amount of work that we were doing and it was time to stand up for what was right. At the same time, I had just become a mom and my priorities shifted. I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue, but in the end I took my daughter with me and I don't regret that decision one bit.
The follow-up to Exposure was titled What You Don't Know and was released in June of 1989. This album would only be certified gold which was slightly disappointing after the sales achieved with their debut album. It did include three more singles which reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 which made Expose' the first girl group to have seven back-to-back Top 10 hits on that prestigious chart. This success allowed them to headline their own tour and they wrapped up the decade performing on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve closing out 1989 and ringing in 1990.
Q: How did you girls feel about all of the copycat girl groups that started coming on the scene after your huge success?
Gioia: We considered it a compliment and embraced each and every one of them. We still work with many of them to this day and support them in every way possible.
Q: I was not previously aware of the tragic story of you losing your voice for a period of time and having to leave music until your miraculous recovery. Please tell us a little about what happened, why you had to leave Expose' and the story of your inspirational recovery.
Gioia: In the summer of 1991, I began having trouble and felt pain in my throat so I went to a few Ear-Nose-Throat doctors. After seeing the Professor of Otolaryngology at Miami Jackson Hospital, I was deemed disabled as a singer; I never knew such a thing could happen and I was devastated. I had a small tumor inside of my left vocal cord, which thankfully wasn't cancerous, but I was told that I wouldn't ever sing again. I try not to dwell on it and stay as positive as possible. I have completely recovered (I guess medical science isn't 100%) and thank God every day for my good fortune. Miracles happen!
Bruno was forced to leave the group after she lost her voice. She was replaced by Kelly Moneymaker for the group's third and final (up to this point) studio album in 1992. This album only enjoyed moderate success. Expose' would be dropped by Arista in 1995 and subsequently disbanded in 1996 to pursue other projects. Bruno fully recovered from her throat tumor and began singing again in 1997. Then in 2006, 15 years since Bruno left due to illness, the Expose' members of Jurado, Curless and Bruno reunited and have been performing together again ever since.
Q: Please tell us a little about where your music career has taken you since that time. How have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?
Gioia: I sing for the sheer joy of singing and I write from the same place. I don't care what the result is; I'm happy and grateful for every note! Proudest professional accomplishments? Expose' of course! But that doesn't mean that there isn't more to come! We're on it, in it, and all over it! Every day that I wake up is a great day! Trust me, there have been some moments for me that have almost shut me down but the love and support of my two adopted sisters, my family and all of the fans and friends who've been so wonderful through the years has kept me smiling, fulfilled and completely happy.
Q: Please tell us about what you and the girls are doing now again as Expose'. What are your goals and expectations now? Are you having fun with it? Sounds like there is the possibility of new Expose' music in the future?
Gioia: We have no expectations, we just do! We're writing, recording and planning for our future together as a group and as solo artists. We support each other on every level. We're having a BLAST! And absolutely, YES! There is new music to come!
Q: What else is Gioia Bruno up to nowadays? Musically and otherwise? Hobbies?
Gioia: I walk my dog Clementine 3 to 4 times a day. She's my buddy. I try to work out regularly, although I'd rather just think about it. Just finished recording a pop/rock/AC record with my dear friend Sue Sirianni and we're presently having it mixed and mastered for an independent release. I love spending time with my friends and being stupid.... Is that a hobby? It should be!
Q: What can we expect in the future? Any remaining ambitions or regrets?
Gioia: I want to inspire people... No time for regrets!
Awesome and inspiring! I am very happy that Gioia was able to take some time to answer my questions so I could share them with you here. Special thanks to Rich Suweidan for helping coordinate the effort. You can find out more and keep up with all the girls from Expose' at their official website www.exposeonline.net and at their official Facebook page www.facebook.com/exposeonline/ . I want to take this opportunity to again thank Gioia Bruno for her contributions to 80s pop culture with Expose' and, even more, for going back to the 80s with us here for a little while as well.
That'll wrap up another special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading and hope you are enjoying the interviews as much as I am. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. If you are interested in reading any of my other 80s related issues, please click there for a summary of those. You can also always click on the Archives in the upper left hand column or use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. Even if you are not a Facebook member yet, please consider joining and registering as a fan at that page. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. Let other 80s fans know about it as well! Peace and much love.
Quote of the day: "It's difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." -Robert H. Goddard
In my continuing mission to celebrate the awesomeness of the 80s, I want to shine a deserving light on some work being done in this decade but with a connection to the 80s. Now I don't claim to be a professional book reviewer, but I do feel qualified to share my opinions on a book and allow you to decide whether it's right for you. I do not anticipate partaking in any negative reviews. I only intend on sharing my recommendations which I feel that you may appreciate as much as I do.
I recently had the pleasure of reading The Pursuit of Cool, a new novel by Robb Skidmore. A book review is supposed to address the merit, style and content of the material. I have to say that The Pursuit of Cool is totally righteous in all three of those departments. I didn't go to college in the 80s myself. I went to college in the 90s, but I love the 80s and this book helped me experience what I imagine college in the 80s to be like. It felt like I could've been reading a John Hughes movie if he would've tackled the college years. The novel is fittingly filled with 80s pop culture references ranging from Combat Rock to Cheryl Tiegs and from R.E.M. to Repo Man.
I knew about the 80s references going in, so I had a feeling I would enjoy the book. What sort of surprised me was just how much I enjoyed it. It went deeper than the 80s love. It was the well-developed characters and the idea of chasing down that immutable, indefinable and ever-changing adjective known as "cool". The tagline on the back cover reads, "A novel that uniquely captures the 1980s". I feel that certainly is an accurate description and the main reason many of you reading this right now will want to buy this book for yourself. I fully endorse The Pursuit of Cool just as much (if not more) for the skill at which the author, Robb Skidmore, tells this tale as I do for the wonderful references of the era that it takes place in. Though it is that special era of the 80s that gives the story and characters a little extra distinction for me. If that is enough to make you want to purchase The Pursuit of Cool now, you can head right over to the author's website www.robbskidmore.com for the appropriate links.
Speaking of the author, I also had the opportunity for an interview with Robb Skidmore, the author of The Pursuit of Cool. What better way to find out a little more about the book than straight from the author himself? His new novel chronicles some of the awesomeness of the 80s, so I say that makes him pretty awesome himself. Here are some selections from my interview with Robb Skidmore...
Q: I know this is your first novel. What else have you done that has led you up to this point?
Robb: I started writing in college, scribbling things in journals. I've done a couple different things for a living and done freelance work but I have always thought of myself as a writer. I've been writing fiction in a serious and constant way since the mid-90s. I started publishing short stories in the late-90s and published a novella last year.
Q: What inspired you to write The Pursuit of Cool?
Robb: I knew early on writing fiction that I wanted to write The Pursuit of Cool. I was inspired by a hundred different things, like the album cover of The Replacements Let It Be, which Lance, the main character, studies in the novel and that triggers some realizations after a devastating breakup at the end of part III. Also, the films of David Lynch, and the career of actor Andrew McCarthy. In a general way, The Pursuit of Cool is what I learned about myself and life in America up until the age of 25. I think writing it was a way for me to understand my youth. A lot of writers write a coming-of-age based on their own experiences as a first novel.
Q: Of course, I love all of the 80s pop culture references. Were those all from personal experience or did you do additional research just for the book? Was it important to you to be sure 80s pop culture had a presence in the story?
Robb: All the references were from personal experience. I listened to my cassette/CD collection throughout writing it. Pop culture was crucial to include because it was so bound up in being young in the 80s. So many of the personal choices made - the bands people liked, the way they wore their hair, the movies they emulated, their clothes, their attitude - related to MTV and pop culture, and they were part of a personal formulation. There was no way to define the characters in the novel without including pop culture.
Q: The title is The Pursuit of Cool. Everybody has their own definition of what "cool" is and that is certainly influenced by society, media and the like. What do you consider to be the definition of "cool"? And can it actually be attained or is it something temporary that needs constant pursuit?
Robb: "Cool" means something that is new but catching on with other people and an excitement crawls up inside you when you experience that thing. In the 80s this "cool" as a mass, shared thing was common, like going to a Cure concert as being "cool." Someone independent and iconoclastic, like an artist who lives in a converted church, can also be "cool." It also can mean something astounding, or a person with an unforgettable, rebellious or proudly unique personality.
"Cool" is such an amorphous and fleeting thing, I think it can only be attained temporarily if at all. In the book "cool" represents youthful desire, a longing to feel a certain way about oneself and to fit in and get a type of recognition. But because it is illusive, one can easily be mistaken and it can quickly fall away and become pointless.
Q: Who do you feel will enjoy reading this book and why?
Robb: Readers who like a good story that pulls them in with intriguing characters. Readers who like funny, emotional stories with some romance. Fans of the 80s and music and movie fans, because all of the characters are defined to some degree by these choices. I think Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials will recognize the pop culture references. There is a universality to the struggle and self-delusion of youth and I think anyone can relate to that. Adult readers of YA might also enjoy it, since it is a coming-of-age story.
Q: Which did you come up with first, the story or the characters?
Robb: The characters came first and the story developed from their desires and interactions and struggles and failings and triumphs.
Q: Tell us a little about the main character of "Lance." Is he drawn from yourself or anybody in particular?
Robb: Lance is a prep school guy who has ten identical pairs of khaki pants. He is from a family of super achievers and is intent on being a big success in college and life. But he is also easily distracted, a procrastinator, and obsessed with music and movies. He thinks he knows what he wants then questions his ambitions when in college he meets a punk rock actor, Ian LaCoss, and a subversive scholar, Charles Boyd. He has an elaborate devotion to model Cheryl Tiegs and a deeply romantic nature and though inept he is sincere and falls in love easily. He desperately wants to understand the feminine other. He's a guy both men and women can relate to. Some of his struggles were inspired by my own, but he is distinct and different from me.
Q: I had a very easy time picturing "Lynn" and there was one sentence that seemed to do it for me. It was when you wrote, "She wore jeans with ankle zippers." Not sure exactly why, but that seemed to immediately establish that character for me. Tell us a little about her and the other female character of "Veronica". What inspired either of them?
Robb: They are composites of girls I knew, but they also have qualities invented for purposes of the story. Lynn Van Oster is a very driven, serious psychology student and a gifted dancer who dominates every dance floor. She's a girl who gets all the guys without really trying. But she is secretly insecure and has bouts of the blues where she isolates and listens to James Taylor and Jim Croce. Veronica Boyer is a gothy feminist who wears vintage clothing and is a summa cum laude student. Kind of a wild child who is fond of ghost pink lipstick. She is always cutting edge, knows all the coolest hangouts and bands and has bumper stickers for Corrosion of Conformity and Misfits on her car. She is not one to be trifled with.
Q: I liked the "Ian LaCoss" character as well. Tell us a little about him and his role within the story.
Robb: Ian has a totally unconventional California hippie New Age background. He is a lady killer, punk rocker, believer in outrageous theories, and an actor. He is fearless and ego driven, but there is some question as whether he is a bit too "out there" for his own good. In a Freudian sense, Ian is all id and he is totally unrestrained, doing and saying everything he wants. Lance Rally is a controlled super ego. Ian's sense of freedom, rebellion and creativity is intoxicating to Lance.
Q: How would you describe the decade of the 80s? What are some of your favorite personal memories from the decade?
Robb: The 80s was a charmed era and a truly great time to be young. The Cold War had stalled into a nonevent and it was a period of peace and prosperity. With no wars to fight, young people had lots of spare time. In 1981, MTV appeared on cable television converters and everybody watched it, constantly. The vibe of the videos, like the 80s in general, was generally happy and celebratory. But the 80s also had a very purposeful, ambitious edge as well. There was a career chic that made achievement and wealth a popular thing.
My favorite personal memories were of attending Emory University, going to concerts, and watching MTV late at night, one video after another, broken up by those strange MTV promos.
Q: "College Rock" is the term that was used in the U.S. to describe 80s alternative rock before the term "alternative" came into common usage. Fittingly, much of the music that is referenced in The Pursuit of Cool would be considered "college rock". What was your favorite music back in the 80s? What were some of your favorite bands/singers? Do you still like that same music today or music from the 80s in general?
Robb: My first music phase was heavily MTV influenced. I loved Van Halen, U2, OMD, The Police, The Cars, Devo, Rush and Thomas Dolby. Really I loved everything on early MTV. In the early days it was considered an obscure TV longshot, they only showed videos, and played every video they could find, from wildly avant garde to cheesy, from Laurie Anderson and Art of Noise, to Chilliwack and Twisted Sister. It was such a rich, artistic mix. It was an instant subculture. I particularly liked the English bands, including ABC, Human League, Haircut 100, Bananarama, Adam Ant, Modern English, Dexys Midnight Runners, and The Jam.
Then I got into "college rock" and fell deeply for R.E.M., Violent Femmes, The Replacements and all the English bands: Joy Division, New Order, The Cure and The Smiths.
I still love 80s music and listen to it. The range and quality and originality of music produced in that era I don't think has been surpassed. Though the current indie music scene has opened doors to new and interesting stuff.
Q: As I mentioned earlier, the novel felt to me like it could have been a John Hughes movie if he would've followed some of his characters into college. Were you a fan of Hughes and his work? Did he or it have any influence on your novel either consciously or subconsciously?
Robb: I remember seeing The Breakfast Club as a teenager and being quite moved. I related deeply with the characters and their struggles. And I felt like it was my life all over the screen. I think John Hughes was a genius because he could take seemingly mundane ideas (five kids in detention on a Saturday, a girl whose sixteenth birthday is forgotten) and make them emotional, important and memorable, while capturing something about the absurdity of life in America. I think Hughes did influence me in that I also think people struggling with ordinary life (which isn't ordinary once you get into it deeply enough) can be intense and worthwhile.
Q: I liked the more original choice of Repo Man that you referenced in the novel. What were some of your favorite movies released during the 80s and why?
Robb: Repo Man is a fave because it is just a crazy, weird and funny film with aliens landing at the end. I love the scene where Harry Dean Stanton's character is teaching Emilio Estevez's character the ways of repo men and says: "See those people, those are ordinary f**king people, and I hate ‘em."
Blue Velvet, also prominent in the novel, had a huge impact on me. I saw it three times in theatres and the music and texture and characters just blew my mind. It made me a David Lynch fan for life. I became quite obsessed, listening to the soundtrack and memorizing dialogue.
Blade Runner is probably my favorite science fiction movie. Visually it is so rich and intriguing. I never tire of watching it. Other favorites include Platoon, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, River's Edge and Cinema Paradiso.
Q: What's next for Robb Skidmore? More novels? Will you continue with the characters from The Pursuit of Cool so we can find out what happens to them?
Robb: I am currently planning a sequel to The Pursuit of Cool which involves Ian LaCoss and his acting career during the 1990s. There is also a futuristic series of novels I am planning that involves humans with wired brains, robots, and the extinction of all wild places on earth.
What an exceptional debut novel for Robb Skidmore! The Pursuit of Cool is certainly deserving of all the praise it is already receiving. I am looking forward to reading his future works. If you want more information on Robb and this outstanding book, be sure to visit his personal website www.robbskidmore.com or if you are already convinced you want to order The Pursuit of Cool, then here are some direct links below that will allow you to do so at a very reasonable price. For the record, I have no direct affiliation with Robb Skidmore other than our mutual admiration of 80s pop culture, but I am very impressed with this effort and wanted to be sure to share it with all of you. Hope you are inclined to support it, too.
That's all for this special issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks as always for reading. If you want a summary of all of my Back to the 80s Interviews posted thus far, please click on that link. Be sure you haven't missed any of them. If you are interested in reading any of my other 80s related issues, please click there for a summary of those. You can also always click on the Archives in the upper left hand column or use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. Let other 80s fans know about us as well! Peace and much love.
Quote of the day: "Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes." -Walt Whitman
+ Bonus Quote: "Call me a joker, call me a fool. Right at this moment, I'm totally cool" -Billy Joel from "I Go To Extremes" (1989)
Top 10 lists used to be a regular feature here on Kickin' it Old School. Interviews have sort of dominated my content lately and hopefully you have been enjoying those as much as I have. I still have many Top 10 lists just waiting to be published and here is another that I thought was timely to help celebrate a special anniversary.
June 11th (2012) marks 30 years since the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released in theaters. Wow, has it really been that long? No movie from the 80s (or almost from any decade) has been seen in theaters more than E.T. This modern fairy tale of sorts is considered by many to be one of the best films of all time. It certainly helped to open up people's hearts to space aliens. I did enjoy 2011's Paul and Men In Black now has a third installment, but, even though special effects have come a long way, nothing beats space aliens from the 80s for me. They were preceded by others like My Favorite Martian in the 60s, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, the SNL "Coneheads" sketches which started in 1977 and the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1978 to name a few. To celebrate the anniversary of E.T., I wanted to recall some of the other space aliens that entertained us on television or at the movies in the 80s. I decided for the purposes of this list that the aliens must visit Earth or at least have significant impact on an earthling. This rules out that galaxy far, far away in the Star Wars films and the like. So with that in mind, here is OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 SPACE ALIEN CHARACTERS FROM 80s TV OR MOVIES (+ Bonus 6):
16. "Diana" from V the television series (1984-1985) - V started as successful mini-series that ran in May of 1983 and another in May of 1984. It continues the story about an alien invasion by "The Visitors" which is led by their commander Diana, played by Jane Badler, who has taken a sexy human-like form though they are really carnivorous reptilians underneath. The series lasted only one season of 19 episodes back then, but was revived with mostly different characters more recently for 22 episodes between 2009-2011.
15. "Jeriba Shigan" from Enemy Mine (1985) - This film does not meet the requirement of the alien coming to Earth, but it does have significant interaction between a human and alien. It stars Dennis Quaid as the human and Louis Gosset, Jr. as a Drac that he calls "Jerry" for short. During a war with each other's races, the two crash land on a planet and, despite initial hostilities, they eventually learn to cooperate in order to survive. They evolved from enemies to friends and almost brothers. The film's tagline was: "Enemies because they were taught to be, allies because they had to be, brothers because they dared to be." Due to production problems and changes, the film was delayed and went way over budget ultimately making it a major financial disappointment.
14. "Grig" from The Last Starfighter (1984) - Based on his skill playing an arcade game, a teenager is recruited to help save the planet Rylos from "Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada". He is persuaded to come to Rylos by "Centauri" who is an alien himself played by Robert Preston in his last film role. There he partners with Grig, the sole surviving reptilian navigator, to save the planet. They briefly return to Earth so Grig can tell the boy's family and friends about his heroic greatness, his new calling to teach future starfighters and, of course, to pick up his girlfriend to come with them. [Check out my interview with Catherine Mary Stewart who played "Maggie" the girlfriend in The Last Starfighter.]
13. "Philo" from UHF (1989) - This cult classic comedy was co-written by and stars Weird Al Yankovic as "George Newman" who takes over a struggling UHF channel. He meets the station's eccentric engineer, Philo (played by Anthony Geary), who also apparently lives there. He even gets his own show, Secrets of the Universe, where in one episode he starts by saying, "Today we are going to learn how to make plutonium from common household items." Later in the film, Philo helps save the station with some timely broadcasting trickery and then reveals himself to really be an alien who says, "Well, it appears that my work on this planet is finished, so I must now return to my home planet of Zarquon" before beaming himself away. The character's name was inspired by one of the inventors of television, Philo T. Farnsworth. It is said that the role was originally written for Joel Hodgson (of MST3K fame) and was also offered to Crispin Glover (George McFly) before Geary took it on.
12. "Wak and Neek" from Explorers (1985) - These aliens do not actually visit Earth, but they do end up as the destination for the kids' magical adventure. This marks the film debut for both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke as two of the three kids who fly a Tilt-a-Whirl car to another galaxy to witness a real life science fiction fantasy. It turns out they were brought there by two young and curious aliens who played a prank while their parents were away. The alien brother and sister named Wak and Neek feel like characters out of a Looney Tunes cartoon and communicate in television and movie quotes which is all they know about Earth. Wak's first words quote Bugs Bunny, "What's up Doc?" Later he uses a Bogart line from The Maltese Falcon, "The uhh... stuff that dreams are made of." Neek behaves in a seductive manner using a Marilyn Monroe voice making a connection with Phoenix's character. When the aliens' father gets home he angrily sends the boys back home. Wak says, "Gee, too bad you have to leave before we could tell you the secrets of the universe." The real secret they find out is that things are not always as different as they seem.
11. "The Antareans" from Cocoon (1985) - These are the aliens who wear a disguise to make them look human when they are visiting Earth to rescue those who were left behind here in cocoons. The leader looks like Brian Dennehy in his human disguise while another is played by the sexy Tahnee Welch (daughter of Raquel Welch). Yep, Steve Guttenberg tries to get busy with the sexy alien. The rest of the non-alien cast is pretty special too featuring Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Don Ameche and Jessica Tandy among others who find the fountain of youth thanks to the aliens' special energy.
10. "The Alien (or Xenomorph)" from Aliens (1986) - You can't have an alien list without the namesake which made its debut in the 1979 original, then continued in the 80s sequel as well as Alien 3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997) and two crossovers Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007). Whenever one of these is around you really want Sigourney Weaver's "Ellen Ripley" on the scene to even up the odds. Not very pleasant.
9. "Predator" from Predator (1987) - Speaking of not very pleasant, Arnold Schwarzenegger battled this technologically advanced (and ugly) alien who seems to hunt other species for sport. It had infrared vision, a plasma weapon and active camouflage. It wasn't done all by special effects, there was someone in that suit. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast to play the Predator, but he was later removed and the role ended up going to Kevin Peter Hall, who was more physically imposing at over 7 feet tall. Hall, who also portrayed "Harry" in Harry and the Hendersons in 1987, played the title role in both the original and the 1990 sequel. Hall, sadly would die in 1991 at just the age of 35. The character went on for one more sequel, Predators (2010) as well as the two crossovers with the Alien franchise mentioned previously.
8. "Mac, Wiploc & Zeebo" from Earth Girls Are Easy (1989) - These three aliens crash land in the Valley area of southern California in this musical comedy which is a little silly and predictable. They are blue, red and yellow and played by Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans respectively. Pretty stellar cast! They are discovered by a manicurist played by Geena Davis who takes them to her friend played by Julie Brown and, after shaving off their fur, find that they're attractive men underneath. They absorb human culture from watching about ten minutes of television and they all go out to party at L.A. nightclubs. While out in the clubs, they are able to make My Best Dancing Scenes from 80s Movies list.
7. "Celeste" from My Stepmother is an Alien (1988) - Kim Basinger portrays "Celeste" who comes to Earth on a secret mission. She is disguised deliberately as an attractive woman. Once here, there is quite a bit of the expected "fish-out-of-water&q uot; humor and first-time human experiences. She falls in love with a widowed scientist played by Dan Aykroyd and his daughter. She very well ranks this high because she is portrayed by the gorgeous Basinger. This might not be the case if the role went as originally cast to Shelley Long.
6. "Starman" from Starman (1984) - The title character is played by Jeff Bridges in a role that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The Starman comes to Earth and takes the form of the recently deceased husband of Karen Allen's character, Jenny, who needs to help him get home. He has the power of healing (which he demonstrates by bringing a deer back to life) and even gives the infertile Jenny a baby. Columbia Pictures actually had two scripts about an alien visiting Earth at the same time and wanted to make only one of them, so they chose this one and unwisely allowed E.T. to be made by Universal Studios.
5. "Marvin the Martian" from Looney Tunes Cartoons (1948-present) - Though he made his first appearance way back in 1948, he has continued to be featured in the cartoons since then. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were a favorite of mine growing up in the 80s (and still are), so that qualifies Marvin for this list. His distinctive voice was provided by the late, great Mel Blanc from his first appearance all the way until 1989 when he passed away. He is often foiled by Bugs Bunny when he attempts to attack the Earth and also does battle with Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers.
4.(tie) "Superman" from Superman II (1981) - Not normally considered your typical alien, Superman came from the planet Krypton. Christopher Reeve famously donned the cape and the S in the 1978 original and returned in this sequel to not only battle the evil Lex Luthor, but a trio of super-villains from his home planet. The series continued with the awful Superman III (1983) which co-starred Richard Pryor and the equally bad Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), but none surpassed the villains in the first sequel.
4.(tie) "General Zod, Ursa & Non" from Superman II (1981) - The super-villains from Krypton deserve special mention. They arrive on our planet with superpowers similar to Superman granted by the Earth's yellow sun. Superman has just decided to relinquish his powers in order to be with Lois Lane which is typical bad timing as the Kryptonians intend on taking over the world. General Zod is the leader portrayed so well by Terence Stamp. Sarah Douglas portrays Ursa who is second-in-command and just as evil while collecting the patches/badges from those she has defeated. At 7 feet tall, Jack O'Halloran portrays Non who is mute and not-so-smart, but just as destructive. These three villains are really what makes this film special to me.
3. "ALF aka Gordon Schumway" from ALF (1986-1990) - ALF (which is stands for Alien Life Form) was created and voiced by Paul Fusco. The native of Melmac crashes his ship into the garage of an unsuspecting suburban family, the Tanners. Comedy ensues as ALF moves in with the Tanners who grow to love him despite the trouble he seems to constantly cause. He is often sarcastic, cynical and likes to eat cats (but never seems to get one). He became sort of a pop culture phenomenon for a while and rumors are that ALF might be making a comeback soon.
2. "Mork from Ork" from Mork & Mindy (1978-1982) - "Mork" was played by the hilarious Robin Williams for four seasons before he went on to become a movie star. It was actually a spin-off from his appearance in a Season 5 episode of Happy Days. Na-noo, Na-noo and Shazbot were his form of greeting and profanity respectively. Mork would check in with his home planet by calling "Orson" (Mork calling Orson, come in Orson) and telling him what he had observed on Earth. It is fun to go back and watch this show now and enjoy the brilliance of Robin Williams on display.
1. "E.T." from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) - There were space aliens before 1982 and even more after, but none have ever connected like E.T. did. We can thank Steven Spielberg for that and the immediate recognition when "E.T. phone home" is spoken. He became a pop culture icon and one of the most beloved non-human characters in history. The bike ride chase scene when they cross the moon is one of those magical moments in cinema that is unforgettable. It's difficult to keep a dry eye when they first think E.T. has died and then again when they say goodbye at the end. "Be good." And E.T. even made Reece's Pieces a phenomenon leading to Hershey Company seeing an incredible 65% rise in profits. No question, E.T. certainly deserves to rank at the top of this list for me. [Please check out my Preview Review issue with the original trailer as well as interesting trivia and my issue on the failed Atari game.]
There's my list. As usual, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood on a given day. Are there any 80s aliens that you feel I have overlooked? If so or if you'd rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below or on Facebook. As you can see the 80s had many aliens in pop culture. Especially looking back now, fashions in the 80s helped lots of folks to look a little like they might be aliens from another planet though they obviously weren't. Or were they?!?! I guess we will never know for sure.
That does it for another issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks so much for reading. If you are interested in reading more of my Top 10 lists, please click there for a summary. If you are interested in reading any of my other 80s related issues, please click there for a summary of those. You can also always click on the Archives in the upper left hand column or use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on the "Like" button. Even if you are not a Facebook member yet, please consider joining and registering as a fan at that page. You can also follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter by clicking on the FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER LOGO also in the upper right hand column. This will take you the page and you can just click on the box that says "Follow". I am sending daily 80s tweets, so sign up to get those. Let other 80s fans know about it as well! Peace and much love.
Check this out: E.T. and Elliot flying on the bike across the moon has become an iconic image and Spielberg has even used it as the symbol for his production company Amblin Entertainment. Here are a few other creative takes that I have come across...
What it might've have looked like if Elliot had a unicycle instead of a bike...
Elliot displaying some X-Games moves with E.T. not strapped in...
E.T. giving Elliot the boot and going the rest of the way by himself...
After hitting some apparent turbulence, both Elliot and E.T. can't hold on...
Oops, I think that is the wrong movie...
What might've happened if the creature from Aliens took E.T.'s place in the basket...
And finally, after the success that E.T. had, all the other space aliens wanted to get their picture flying across the moon on a bike...
Quote of the day: "The only thing that scares me more than space aliens is the idea that there aren't any space aliens." -Ellen DeGeneres
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