Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary today. The two met on the set of All My Children back in 1995. Kelly played the popular heroine Hayley Vaughn and Mark was brought on as her love interest, Mateo Santos. I remember thinking at the time that they had incredible chemistry. Apparently, that carried over into their real lives since they eloped in Las Vegas the next year. Hayley and Mateo experienced a ton of drama, but Kelly and Mark have remained fairly steady. After they left AMC in 2002, they continued on to successful careers and raised a family. They also have a producing partnership. Currently, they’re in development on a primetime reboot of AMC, taking it back to where their love story began.
Luther Vandross would have turned 70 today. We lost the phenomenal singer/songwriter too soon, but his velvet voice lives on. This year also marks the 40th Anniversary of his solo debut, Never Too Much. The album gave us the instantly recognizable title track and his cover of Dionne Warwick’s “A House is Not a Home”, which completely lives up to the original. I believe in the power of Luther.
Fear walked so hundreds of Lifetime movies could run. You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing films like My Psycho Ex-Boyfriend or Deadly Boyfriend. Different titles with the same premise of a young woman meeting a “good” guy who turns out to be criminally insane. There weren’t a lot of young adult thrillers like that up until the release of Fear in 1996. You had horror and dramas, but not any Fatal Attraction-type films for the high school crowd. There was The Crush in 1993, starring Alicia Silverstone as a teenage girl who becomes dangerously obsessed with an older man, but that was told from the man’s point of view. Fear‘s focus is primarily on the teens, which makes it much more interesting.
Girl meets boy
Nicole Walker (Reese Witherspoon) is a 16-year-old who lives in Seattle (we know this because they show the Space Needle a thousand times) with her father Steven (William Petersen), her stepmother Laura (Amy Brenneman), and her little stepbrother Toby (Christopher Gray). There’s friction at home because Nicole is growing up and her dad can’t handle it. When she stays out past curfew to go to a rave with her best friend Margo (Alyssa Milano), she meets David (Mark Wahlberg). He seems great on paper: good looking, polite, and chivalrous. So, Nicole falls for him pretty quickly. The sexy part of the thriller kicks into gear here. It’s like David brings Nicole out of her shell and causes her, and the director, to lean into her sexuality. There are plenty of closeups of her breasts in lowcut dresses, intense make out sessions, and a fingerbanging scene on a roller coaster (set perfectly to The Sundays’ version of “Wild Horses”). David’s perfect boyfriend veneer soon begins to crack, though, and he proves to be fairly disturbed. Like when he kicks the crap out of Nicole’s friend Gary (Todd Caldecott) for giving her a friendly hug. Or when he purposely injures himself and blames Steven. David continually manipulates Nicole until she finally gets a clue. She dumps him, but he won’t let her go. He even makes a homemade tattoo on his chest proclaiming: NICOLE 4 EVA. It’s fairly ridiculous, but I guess it was supposed to be cool and scary back then.
The overprotective dad
The contentious relationship between Steven & David makes up a large portion of the story too. Steven isn’t fooled by his overly polite façade. Good eye. But even if David wasn’t a bad guy, Steven still would have hated him. He’s extremely protective of Nicole and wants to keep her his little girl. Sweet on one hand, creepy on the other. Throughout the movie he worries about her dresses being too short or that David is too handsy with her. It all comes down to his fear of her losing her virginity. When he discovers that Nicole and David had sex, he freaks out. It’s almost like he’s jealous. For his part, David does anything he can to antagonize Steven. He stares him down, daring him to stop him from screwing his daughter. He even flirts with Laura, so he can really be a dick. Both men want to possess Nicole in their own way and be the alpha male figure in her life. Her narrative almost gets lost as she’s bounced back and forth between these two men.
The best friend
In a thriller, the best girlfriend is the talk-to who helps keep the heroine’s story going. Margo fits the bill here. She’s supportive of Nicole and offers an ear for all of her problems. She even risks her life to save Nicole from being attacked. It’s a wonder she isn’t killed since that’s usually the fate of this character type. Although, I suppose poor Gary, Nicole’s other good friend, being beaten to death by David kinda counts. On the flip side, Nicole is a shitty friend. She sees David forcibly take Margo away to have sex with her, but she’s actually angry with Margo. As if her best friend wanted to sleep with her boyfriend and wasn’t raped. It’s a horrible way to treat someone who has already been traumatized. #JusticeforMargo
The last act is where all the dramatic violent chaos happens. David and his cracked-out friends (how did I miss that he was a crack dealer when I first saw this in 1996?) try to break into Nicole’s house, while Steven and Laura fight them off. The family dog and a security guard are killed, Toby runs over someone, and Nicole is nearly sexually assaulted. In the final moments, Steven saves Nicole by tossing David out of a window. That splat is very satisfying. The ultimate lesson here is if a guy seems too good to be true, he probably is. Even if he’s a hot 90s era Marky Mark.
Shannen Doherty is one of my favorite actresses who has played two of my favorite characters in my all-time favorite movie and TV show. That’s a lot of love there. But it’s well earned. She’s a great actress who can do both drama and comedy effortlessly. She illustrated this in the 80s cult classic Heathers, playing the envious Heather Duke. And, again, when she took on the role of Brenda Walsh in the synonymous-with-the-90s series Beverly Hills 90210. She made each character memorable and fun to watch. Since then she’s had a steady career with acting, producing, and directing. Of course, I was happy to see her come full circle by playing a heightened version of herself in the BH90210 reboot two years ago. Outside of entertainment, Shannen continues to inspire as she wages a battle against breast cancer. She’s a survivor and icon. Happy 50th Birthday, Shannen!
In the years since she died, it seems like Latasha Harlins has been largely forgotten. When she is actually mentioned, in the media, the focus is on how she died. The documentary short, A Love Song for Latasha, chooses to look at her life as a whole and not just the horrible circumstances surrounding her death.
Latasha was a young black girl growing up in South Central LA. Early on she faced hardship when her mother was murdered, but she kept going. She took care of her younger siblings and looked out for her friends. She was also a good student who dreamed of being a lawyer and a business owner. She wanted to give back to her community and help other children. But at 15 years old, she was murdered by a convenience store owner who wrongfully accused her of stealing and shot her. All for a $1.79 bottle of orange juice.
The documentary tells us about Latasha through her loved ones. Her cousin and best friend talk about how special she was and speculate about who she could have grown up to become. We also hear Latasha’s own words in a heartfelt essay. Director Sophia Nahli Allison intertwines this with beautiful images of black girls. They all could have been Latasha. They’re shown as proud queens, the way they should be depicted in the media. Allison uses this imagery instead of showing the widespread video footage of Latasha’s murder. It makes the film much more impactful. She gives life and light to Latasha’s story, making sure that she will always be remembered.
Back in 1986, “That’s What Friends Are For” was named the #1 single of the year by Billboard. But the history of the track actually goes back a little further. Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager wrote “Friends” in 1982. At the time, Rod Stewart recorded it for the movie Night Shift. He did an ok job with it, but something was missing. That something being Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight.
The quartet got together to record their own version in 1985 as a charity single to benefit AIDS research. Adding their energy and retooling the arrangement made the song infinitely better. Dionne starts it off with her distinctive vocals, Stevie brings in the harmonica, Elton’s on the piano, and Gladys wraps it up strongly. Their voices and styles mesh really well together. It’s not surprising that this was a huge hit, winning the Grammy for Song of the Year. And even better, it raised much needed funds for a worthwhile cause. Keep smiling, keep shining.
Twenty years ago, “Lady Marmalade” gitchie gitchie gitchie ya-ya’d onto the scene. This was actually a cover of the song that dynamic girl group Labelle made famous in 1974. Flash forward to 2001, where superstar Missy Elliott produced a remake for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It was an appropriate choice considering both the song and the movie featured prostitutes. And a little bit of French. Missy assembled an impressive lineup of singers for the project and gave each woman a chance to shine. Mya kicked it off with her light silky vocals. Pink followed with her rocker style. Lil’ Kim broke it down with a rap, “We independent women, some mistake us for whores/ I’m sayin’, why spend mine when I can spend yours?” Then Christina Aguilera brought it home with roaring vocals that were bigger than her hair in the music video. When you added in Missy’s bombastic production you had a remake that equaled the greatness of the original. A rarity. Just like in 1974, the track went to #1. It also earned the quartet a Grammy. Hey sistas!
A love song that doesn’t care about “I love you”? It’s not such a crazy concept actually. Extreme’s “More Than Words” is an ode to a show me, don’t tell me kind of love. It’s easy to give someone a verbal confirmation, but to prove how deeply you feel with your actions is more powerful. “More than words/Is all you have to do to make it real/Then you wouldn’t have to say/That you love me/Cause I’d already know.”
Those lyrics matched with a smooth acoustic guitar came together to form a beautiful song. It also marked a departure for Extreme. Up until then they were known as a hard rock group, but going the ballad route really put them on the map. The single went to #1 in the US and several other countries in 1991. At that time, I remember it being played at every middle school dance. I didn’t care much about slow dancing, but I loved hearing that song. Still do.
Soleil Moon Frye carried her video camera everywhere she went when she was a teenager in the 90s. From wild parties to mundane trips to the mall. Then she locked those videotapes away and never looked back. Twenty-something years later, she has opened her vault of recorded memories and made the documentary kid90.
Frye rose to fame as a child on the 80s sitcom Punky Brewster. Everyone loved the character and the precocious little girl who played her. When the show ended, she continued to work in the business while having a semi-normal teen life. By this time, she had befriended other young actors like Brian Austin Green, Stephen Dorff, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. They grew up together in LA and she was there to film it all.
In kid90, Frye looks back at this footage and checks in with her younger self. She questions whether or not what she remembers happening actually occurred. She finds that she did have a pretty happy childhood. Her family was loving and caring. Plus, she had a supportive group of friends. There were dark times though. Frye’s breasts developed very early, leading to unwanted attention and harassment from older men. In the documentary, we see her going in for breast reduction surgery. She also had to contend with sexual assault. These events shaped her physically and emotionally.
The film also gets into life as a child star. Frye’s post-Punky career didn’t take off in the way she would have hoped, but she accepted this and moved past it. Unfortunately, many of her friends weren’t able to survive similar challenges. Actor Jonathan Brandis, who also became famous at a young age, is featured in the film. He seems happy and Frye only has fond memories of him. This is where perceptions of the past can differ from what was actually going on. Frye wasn’t seeing the whole picture. After his career failed, Brandis killed himself. Frye wonders how she could have missed the pain her friend was going through. Not everything showed up on camera it seems.
In the 90s, social media didn’t exist and people weren’t self-documenting like they do today. Frye was ahead of the curve. She knew she had a story to share someday. Also, without the threat of having their personal business put online, she was able to capture her friends unguarded. As a fellow 90s kid, it’s interesting to see these actors that I followed in a more private real setting. Frye does a great job of assembling it all and taking the audience down a fun and sometimes complex nostalgia trip.