Star-Bulletin Features

Bared mid-riff? Leopard spots? It must be the '80s again. From left, Rona Awber, Jules Gayton, Karen Hong and Mark Chittom show off their '80s garb at Indigo restaurant, where the "Class of '86" convenes tomorrow night.

’80s nostalgia
sweeps clubs
and air waves

Things seemed simpler in
a decade that saw Pac-Man
and the "Cabbage Patch"

Do ya remember?

By Shawn 'Speedy' Lopes

It was the decade that began with the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington and concluded with the toppling of the Berlin Wall, yet all anyone cares to remember is how to properly execute the Pee Wee Herman dance.

"It's easy. Just jerk your arms in front of you like this and do the same behind your back," explained 28-year-old Chris Irving to a group of friends gathered around him at Indigo Restaurant's Green Room during a recent retro '80s party. "Dude, it's so simple."

The world seemed simpler then, too. Michael Jackson was king, Madonna was queen and Prince was, well ... Prince. Records and cassettes cost about as much as a week's allowance and those highfalutin' compact discs were strictly the domain of wealthy audiophiles. Coolness predicated that we don checkerboard Vans, Members Only jackets and rubber bracelets and name our dances "The Smurf," "The Cabbage Patch" and "The Wop."

We played Pac-Man and Space Invaders at the arcade, videos on Betamaxes, and made Martha Quinn, Mr. T and the IROC-Z our cultural icons. A real '80s man wasn't afraid to keep an arsenal of hair care products in plain sight and a woman who wore an oversized turquoise sweater over a yellow blouse wanted you to know she took the time to color-coordinate her ensemble.

The general theory is, it takes a good 20 years for a cultural revival to surface. In the '70s, we reveled in such nostalgic '50s fare as "Happy Days," "Grease" and "American Graffiti." In the '80s, musical acts as wide-ranging as Prince, De La Soul, and the American jangle-pop bands of the Paisley Underground (Bangles, Dream Syndicate, Pandoras) dabbled in groovy '60s psychedelia.

In the 1990s, infomercials hawking campy disco compilations found their way to late-night TV while Lenny Kravitz made those funky bellbottoms fashionable again. Right on cue, it seems, the '80s have come full circle.

HERE IN HONOLULU, it's been more than a year since KQMQ changed its tune and went retro with a largely '80s-based format. Last December, Oceanic Cable added VH1 Classic to its digital lineup; a channel that consists largely of '80s music videos. In January, the Fox Network made the 1980s revival official by introducing the American populace to "That '80s Show."

Supported by a cast of bland characters and lukewarm jokes, the inevitable follow-up to the popular "That '70s Show" has relied on an endless supply of visual props (huge cell phones, skinny ties, Rubik's Cubes) for its biggest laughs. This has prompted Gen X-ers to ponder whether their wonder years have been reduced to a set of sight gags, as was the case with the preceding '70s generation.

"I remember those '70s parties in the mid-'90s when people would dress up like kooks and act like morons," states Mark Chittom, a k a DJ Mark, co-promoter of the occasional '80s shindigs at Indigo. "Disco parties with guys wearing afro wigs got old really fast. But when you see someone at an '80s party dressed like somebody out of 'Valley Girl,' that's totally different. You have to really dig to find clothes like that."

One such retro-rummager is 26-year-old Wendy Pang, who on a recent Sunday evening could be found outside Wave Waikiki in a stunningly authentic early '80s ensemble. Sundays are "Club '80s" night at the Wave, and Pang, attired in Chic jeans and a ruffled blouse waited for friends, who, in the spirit of the weekly event, vowed to out-"val" each other.

"I kind of inherited this stuff from my older sister who I thought was like, the coolest chick when I was small," explained the self-confessed "thrift shop-aholic" and '80s culture junkie.

"She just kept boxes of her old clothes at my mom's house. They're way better than stuff you find at Savers or Salvation Army." She giggles and sweeps her hands across her hip-hugging denims. "I think I overdid it, though. I'm kind of embarrassed standing out here by myself like this."

JOHN GOYA, 29, also understands the powerful allure of music from the Big Hair Generation. As Johnny SG, the host of Hawaii's most comprehensive '80s radio show ("Club 1980s" on the University of Hawaii's anything-goes KTUH FM), Goya receives enough requests each Monday afternoon to take up a sizable portion of his three-hour program. "Having this show helped me learn a lot," admits Goya. "Not just the pop stuff, but the whole spectrum of '80s music."

With an astounding selection of recordings to choose from in the KTUH vaults, Goya delves deep into the station's 30-plus year-old archives to deliver an accurate and wide-ranging representation of what we really popped into our ghetto blasters back then. Long-forgotten ditties like Olivia Newton-John's "Magic" and "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band may find itself sandwiched between Run-DMC's "Rock Box" and an obscure cover tune by UK metal gods Saxon.

It's all about nostalgia, he says. "There's a feeling you get when you're listening to radio or watching TV and you hear a song you haven't heard in a long time," Goya explains. "It's like a full wave of emotion. I just love that. To do that for somebody else makes me feel good. I think that's cool."

To those who came of age in the Reagan era, the '80s are finally starting to feel like a long time ago, yet unlike preceding generations, their identity remains largely undefined.

"When the '80s started, I was 10 and when it ended, I was 20," remembers Chittom. "I was just thinking what a huge gap that is. I don't think it was culturally dead and I don't think it was inferior to the '60s or '70s, either. Maybe it wasn't politically charged or anything, but I really didn't care about that at the time.

"I was growing up in Mississippi, mowing the lawn listening to Van Halen on my Walkman and I'm sure there were kids here doing the same thing."


>> "Class of '86": 9 p.m. Saturday at Indigo, 1121 Nuuanu Ave.
>> "Club '80s": 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sundays at Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave.
>> " '80s Night": 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays at Grumpy's, 327 Keawe St.
>> "Planet Q": 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays at Rumours, 410 Atkinson Dr.
>> "Superstar": 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesdays at Maze, 2255 Kuhio Ave.
>> "Ol' Skool Fridayz": 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays at Don Ho's Island Grill, Aloha Tower Marketplace

On the radio

>> "Club 1980's": Noon to 3 p.m. Mondays on KTUH 90.3 FM (91.3 North Shore, 89.7 Hawaii Kai)
>> KQMQ 93.1 FM

On the tube

>> "That 80's Show": 7 p.m. Wednesdays on KHON
>> "VH1 Classic": On Oceanic Digital Cable, ch. 563
>> " '80's Music Choice": Oceanic Digital Cable, ch. 821

Rent the video/DVD

>> "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982)
>> "Valley Girl" (1983)
>> "Beat Street" (1984)



Do ya remember?

By Gary C.W. Chun

Ho, music from the '80s was good fun, yeah? We had new wave from the mainland and England, rap was just starting up in the Boogie Down Bronx, power ballads were screaming from the radio, MTV was changing the way music was being marketed ... looking back, we wuz making history.

Here are some, just some, of the more memorable tunes. Remember?

>> The year was 1980!! (Drum roll, please): "Whip It," Devo; "Mirror In The Bathroom," The English Beat; "Our Lips Are Sealed," The Go-Go's; "Don't You Want Me," The Human League; "Turning Japanese," The Vapors

>> 1981: "Just Can't Get Enough," Depeche Mode; "Super Freak," Rick James; "Don't Stop Believing," Journey; "Genius of Love," Tom Tom Club

>> 1982: (da bes'!): "Planet Rock," Afrika Bambaataa; "Atomic Dog," George Clinton; "Rock the Casbah," The Clash; "Come On Eileen," Dexy's Midnight Runners; "Hungry Like the Wolf," Duran Duran; "I Ran (So Far Away)," A Flock of Seagulls; "The Message," Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; "White Wedding," Billy Idol; "Night Nurse," Gregory Isaacs; "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," Michael Jackson; "I Melt With You," Modern English; "1999" and "Little Red Corvette," Prince; "Never Say Never," Romeo Void; "Kids In America," Kim Wilde

>> 1983: "Close (To The Edit)," Art of Noise; "Flashdance ... What A Feelin,'" Irene Cara; "Karma Chameleon," Culture Club; "She Blinded Me With Science," Thomas Dolby; "Blue Monday," New Order; "Burning Down the House," Talking Heads; "Red Red Wine," UB40

>> 1984: "Relax," Frankie Goes to Hollywood; "Like A Virgin" and "Material Girl," Madonna; "When Doves Cry," Prince

>> 1985: "Word Up," Cameo; "She Sells Sanctuary," The Cult; "People Are People," Depeche Mode; "The Show (Oh My God)," Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew; "Rock the Bells," LL Cool J; "Addicted to Love," Robert Palmer; "Don't You Forget About Me," Simple Minds; "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," Tears for Fears

>> 1986: "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)," Beastie Boys; "Kiss," Prince; "Walk This Way" and "It's Tricky," Run-DMC

>> 1987: "Why Can't I Be You?" and "Just Like Heaven," The Cure; "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard; "La Isla Bonita," Madonna

>> 1988: "My Prerogative," Bobby Brown; "Parents Just Don't Understand," DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; "F--- Tha Police," N.W.A.; "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Bring the Noise," Public Enemy

>> 1989: "Me Myself and I," De La Soul, "Express Yourself" and "Like A Prayer," Madonna; "Wild Thing," Tone-Loc; "Bust A Move," Young M.C.

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