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Who Can Forget the '90s?

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Bill Clinton can't recall events in the Oval Office that would appear highly memorable. Bill Gates can't remember crucial e-mail messages he wrote about his company's strategy. Hootie and the Blowfish have released a third CD, plainly oblivious to the reception given their second. Yes, the '90s seem to be passing without notice, sliding into obscurity like so much bilge water under the bridge to the 21st century. By next year, amid all the millennium chatter, the decade is destined to be forgotten entirely.

We're here to correct that oversight. We've reflected on the decade. We've looked back at the compelling trends of the day and organized them into lists. We've reviewed the entire nine years of Time magazine covers. We've done everything we can to celebrate the '90s while they're still here. And the conclusion we've reached: no one has any idea what the '90s are about, beyond the basic picture of ever-widening butts planted in front of an ever-widening array of high-tech channels, all of them broadcasting Monica.

The elusive, characterless quality of the '90s may stem from the fact that we spent the better part of the decade recycling the clothes, music, food, TV shows, and impeachment proceedings of decades past. From flares to fondue to the Flintstones, it was a nine-year exercise in strip-mining the trash heap of American culture. Of course, there were a few innovations, like Ross Perot's Reform Party and electronic catalog shopping.

Still, if there's one unmistakable trend to the '90s, it's that the cycle of nostalgia -- from fad to fade to revival -- is getting evermore compressed.

Your cargo pants are going to be passe and cool again before President's Day. So let us be the first to say that we're over the '90s. Now let's bring 'em on back!

The DNA Decade

O.J.'s blood

Jurassic Park

Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings

cloned calves


Human Genome Project

the dress

Dr. Richard Seed

Things That Became Extinct in the '90s

"independent" films

"grassroots" politics

"most livable" status

Trader Vic's

the Dead

busy signals




drug-law reform

health-care reform

education reform

grazing-fees reform

water-rights reform

Teamsters reform

tort reform

the peace dividend

the '60s

affirmative action

black-and-white newspapers

The Fat Decade

Biggie Smalls


Chris Farley

Drew Carey

Rosie O'Donnell

Monica's thighs

Bill's appetite


Rush Limbaugh

Stuffed-crust pizza

Queen Latifah


Newt Gingrich


fat cigars


Mitchell Rupe

that woman on The Practice

I lost 40 lbs. in three weeks! Ask me how!

'90s Bright Ideas

S&L bailout

urban villages

the cashmere hooded sweatshirt


diversity consultants

casual Fridays

Contract with America


Brew Your Own Beer

zero tolerance

tall cuisine

fusion cuisine

cold fusion

ice beer

clear beer


tattoo removals

silicone implants

silicone-implant removals

collagen injections

condoms in high schools

condoms in junior high schools

Heather Has Two Mommies

celebrity junkies

celebrity blowjobs

celebrity wanking

movies based on comics

movies based on toys

movies based on comics based on toys

hot-talk radio

Hammer time

luxury pickups


penile reattachments

penile implants

the Goodwill Games

"Refuse to Lose"

The Oral Decade

Eddie Murphy

Hugh Grant

milk moostaches

Marv Albert

"the big creep"

Dick Morris

Anna Deavere Smith

Tommy Lee

giant sucking sound

Kurt Cobain

Very '90s Ways to Quit This World

firing a postal worker

giving a poor review to a rap CD

sharing a latte with Nicole Brown Simpson

paparazzi racing

elementary school shoot-out

junior high school shoot-out

high school shoot-out

swinging in Walla Walla

Waco BBQ

breathing in the Tokyo subway


mailgram from Lincoln, Montana

landing a plane on Viagra

CBS' prime time

Jumbo Jack washed down with Odwalla

shoplifting at Safeway

scoring an "own goal" against Colombia

Political Miracle Decade

Clinton still president

Saddam still in Baghdad

British monarchy still collecting paychecks

Strom Thurmond still breathing

Carville and Matalin still married

Newt's rise

Newt's fall

balanced budgets

budget surpluses

Thomas Jefferson makes tabloids

Wag the Dog's timing

Inappropriate Relationship Decade

Bill and Monica

Bill and Paula

Bill and Kathleen

Bill and Gennifer

Bill and Andy

Amy and Joey

Mike and Evander

Bob Packwood and staff

buttafuoco buttafuoco buttafuoco


Ronald McDonald and kids

Frugal Gourmet and helpers

Pee-Wee Herman and self

Henry Hyde and friend's wife

Anna Nicole Smith and ancient husband

Clarence and Anita

Tonya and Nancy

Woody and Soon-Yi

Michael Jackson and young friends

Remake Decade

Lost in Space


The Brady Bunch

The Beverly Hillbillies


George of the Jungle

The Jetsons

The Fugitive

The Avengers


Mission Impossible

Dennis the Menace

Addams Family

Mr. Magoo

Sergeant Bilko

Etc., etc., etc., etc.

The Rugrats Decade

McCaughey septuplets

Chukwu octuplets

Gates Babies


"Baby Got Back"

Baby Spice

"Yeah, baby!"


Baby boom echo

Babydoll look

Baby M

Beanie babies

Dancing baby

Fabulous SportsBabe

"Hasta la vista, baby"

crack babies

A Brief History of Time in the '90s

How better to gain a perspective on the decade just passed than to consult the magazine of record, the arbiter of our times, the school library standby: Time magazine. There is no better way. According to the magazine archives, here's what really happened in the '90s.

Most frequent cover subject: Bill and/or Hillary Clinton: 16 (That's pre-Lewinsky scandal; there were another dozen after.)

Runner-Up: God (and members of his immediate family) 15

Honorable mention: Saddam Hussein: 12

Obligatory mention: Bill Gates: 3

Most frequent rediscovered crisis: Kids (and Sex/Crack/Guns/Porn/Violence/Pot, etc.), with 10 covers

Most prescient political cover: "Bill Clinton, Is He for Real?" (January 27, 1992)

Second-most prescient political cover: "Lying: Everybody Does It" (October 5, 1992)

Worst call on a political issue: "Roe v. Wade Is a Dead Letter" (May 4, 1992)

Worst Show-Biz Star of the Future call: Jodie Foster, "film director" (October 14, 1991)

Worst Political Star of the Future call: Janet Reno ("The Real Thing," July 12, 1993)

Most extreme wishful-thinking cover: "Dan Quayle Is No Joke" (April 23, 1990)

Most inexplicable Man of the Year: Ted Turner (1991)

Most deserving cover subject of the decade: Bart Simpson (December 31, 1990)

Tales of Our Lives: Fashionable Time cover maladies year by year

1990: Anxiety (October 15)

1991: Infertility (September 30)

1992: Global warming (June 1)

1993: Domestic violence (January 18)

1994: Attention Deficit Syndrome (July 18)

1995: Cyberporn (July 3)

1996: Prostate cancer (April 1)

1997: Evil mind drugs (September 29)

1998: E. coli, the killer germ (August 3)

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