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50 Things Millennials Have Never Heard Of

Millennials are socially progressive and digitally savvy, but here are 50 cultural artifacts that leave them clueless

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, contributing editor Jon Dolan breaks down a new millennials poll from the magazine and Pivot, as well as some other polling numbers, in an effort to discern fact from fiction about the much-maligned generation. The results are both surprising (64 percent of millennials described themselves as more materialistic than their parents) and encouraging (roughly 50 percent of them voted in 2012). The conventional wisdom might be that millennials are self-involved and tech-addicted, but they’re also much more liberal than even Gen X on all sorts of cultural issues. Broadly speaking, the kids are alright. But even the savviest millennial is likely clueless about the 50 people, cultural artifacts, pieces of technology, and other ephemera collected here. These things seemed important once. How times change.

(For some perspective from the other side of the generation gap, make sure to read our list of 50 Things Millennials Know That Gen-Xers Don’t.) 

Bushwick Bill

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bushwick Bill

As a member of the Geto Boys, the 3'8" Jamaica-born Bushwick Bill helped usher in the era of Dirty South hip-hop. He shot out one of his eyes during an altercation with his girlfriend, but they used that to their advantage by putting him on the cover of their 1991 LP We Can't Be Stopped getting wheeled around hospital on a bed. The incident led to lots of press and the highest sales of their career. He became a born-again Christian in 2006, though four years after that he was busted with coke. 

Judge Reinhold

Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

Judge Reinhold

Few young actors had a better 1980s than Judge Reinhold. He was in Stripes, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Beverly Hills Cop and even the criminally underrated father-son mind transfer comedy Vice Versa. He was every bit as famous as Tom Hanks, until the 1990s hit him like a ton of bricks. He's spent the last two decades in direct-to-video purgatory as he prays for the long-rumored Beverly Hills Cop IV.  

Keenan Ivory Wayans

David Keeler/Getty Images

Keenen Ivory Wayans

Once the driving force behind, and main face of, the groundbreaking early '90s FOX sketch comedy show In Living Color, which kicked off the careers of Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez, among others, Wayans has focused on behind-the-scenes activities since directing Scary Movie in 2000. Now, he's probably the fifth most recognizable member of his own family, after his brothers Damon Wayans, Marlon Wayans, and Shawn Wayans, as well as his nephew Damon Wayans, Jr.

Leisure Suit Larry

CC Image courtesy Patrick H. Lauke on Flickr

‘Leisure Suit Larry’

This raunchy computer game, in which players attempted to help the sleazy title character seduce women, was a key rite of passage for many an adolescent boy. All that cartoonish, pixelated skin!

Emilio Estevez Charlie Sheen Men at Work

Triumph Releasing/courtesy Everett Collection

‘Men at Work’

Back in 1990, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez were equally famous. The two sons of Hollywood legend Martin Sheen graduated from Brat Back movies to blockbusters like Wall Street (Charlie) and Young Guns (Emilio). They teamed up in 1990 for Men At Work, the best movie ever made about two lazy garbage men who stumble into a criminal underworld after finding a toxic waste dumping operation. For whatever reason, nobody has referenced this movie in any capacity since sometime in early 1992. 

Jason and Jeremy London

BEImages/Alex J. Berliner

Jason and Jeremy London

Jason London starred as Randall "Pink" Floyd in 1993's Dazed and Confused and as an early virtual reality adopter in the video for Aerosmith's "Amazing," which helped launch Alicia Silverstone's career. He is not to be confused with Jeremy London, his identical twin brother, who played key roles in Kevin Smith's Mallrats and as Neve Campell's bad-boy boyfriend on Party of Five. It's easy to wonder if casting directors knew these were two different actors. 

Howard Stern Fartman

Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Fartman

Long before he became a mildly irascible judge on America's Got Talent, Howard Stern was actually an infamous provocateur. One of his most outrageous moments occurred when the shock jock showed up at the 1992 MTV Music Award dressed as his long-running Fartman character, complete with butt cheeks bared. That moment was re-enacted as the opening for the 1997 film version of Stern's autobiography, Private Parts.

Choose Your Own Adventure Book

CC Image courtesy Derekbruff on Flickr

‘Choose Your Own Adventure’

In the age of astoundingly immersive video games, books that gave readers choices may seem about as impressive as a cart-and-horse seems to an F1 driver, but during the Choose Your Own Adventure fantasy series' heyday in the '80s and '90s, the idea that a book presented narrative options was honestly really cool. Do you believe me? If so, go to page 19. If not, go to page 31. 

Bono MacPhisto

Paul Bergen/Redferns

Mister MacPhisto

During U2's great Achtung Baby!/Zooropa-era embrace of Euro affection and role-playing, Bono often adopted the on-stage guise of Mister MacPhisto, a devilish aristocratic character. At stops on the 1993 leg of the band's massive Zoo TV tour, the frontman, clad in creepy white face make-up and red devil horns, would make prank phone calls from the stage. Bono thought enough of MacPhisto that the ghoulish figure appeared in animated form in the video for the band's 1995 single "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." The old devil hasn't been seen since.  

Jaye Davidson

Steve Eichner/Getty Images

Jaye Davidson

Androgyny and cross-dressing were still considered shocking enough in 1992 that the Davidson's gender-bending performance in that year's The Crying Game resulted in the actor's having a moment in the cultural spotlight. It didn't last much beyond his follow-up role as a pseudo-Egyptian demi-god in the 1994 sci-fi flick Stargate

Bela Karolyi Kerri Strug Olympics

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Kerri Strug

Put it this way: gymnast Kerri Strug was sorta like the 1996 version of Gabby Douglas, with the added bonus of overcoming an injury during the Olympics and then being born aloft by her bear-like Hungarian coach, Bela Karolyi. 

Laser Disc

SSPL/Getty Images

LaserDiscs

These were about four times bigger than DVDs, way more expensive than VHS tapes, and had to be turned over like vinyl records. So no, they didn't have a long shelf-life as a movie-watching method. 

L.A. Gear Shoes

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

L.A. Gear Shoes

Spurred by the wild '80s success of Nike's Air Jordans, the sports shoe industry turned into a footwear, uh, arms race by the early '90s. The Reebok Pumps are the most famous example, but upstart shoe company L.A. Gear developed such supposedly high tech lines as the Regulator, the Catapult, and, most infamously, L.A. Lights, which featured LED lights in the heel of the shoe. 

Floppy Disc

Don Carstens

Floppy Discs

Even rapidly obsolescing digital storage technology like flash drives make floppy discs seem clunky and inefficient. Thank goodness for the cloud. 

Wings

Monty Brinton/NBCU Photo Bank

‘Wings’

A television comedy show about a tiny airport  in Nantucket might seem like a horrible idea, but somehow Wings lasted for eight seasons on NBC. These were the salad days of the network, and despite high ratings it was always buried beneath NBC giants like Seinfeld, Friends and Cheers. Show stars Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard and Thomas Haden Church continued to work with varying degrees of success, Wings never had much of a second life and even faithful viewers from the 1990s probably can't remember much about it. 

Mark Knopfler

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Mark Knopfler

It's highly likely that millennials would recognize the catchy main guitar riff from Dire Straits' 1985 hit "Money for Nothing." But we'll admit that it might be a stretch to expect them to understand how band frontman Mark Knopfler, a balding thirtysomething given to wearing headbands and wristbands, used to  fill arenas full of young people. Pop stars don't really look like dads as much as they used to. 

Graphic Equalizer

CC Image courtesy RuffLife on Flickr

Graphic Equalizers

Before stereos fit in our pockets and stored thousands of songs, they cost hundreds of dollars and required their own shelving units. Most people had a CD changer, a cassette table, a turn table, a receiver and a bunch of speakers, but super fancy folks also had a graphic equalizer. It made anyone feel like a record producer, allowing you to adjust the bass, treble and about eight other things people pretended to understand. It also looked really cool on the shelf, though today it's about as useful as a telegraph machine. 

Turbo Grafx 16

CC Image courtesy TrojanDan on Flickr

TurboGrafx-16

Children in the early 1990s faced a tough dilemma: Which 16-bit gaming system to buy? Super Nintendo had Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, but Sega Genesis had the awesomely violent Mortal Kombat. Then there was TurboGrafx-16. It was the RC Cola of the gaming systems, but it did have Bonk's Adventure. That was a pretty cool game where a baby caveman banged enemies with his giant head. It was cool enough that some kids actually bought TurboGrafx-16. It was a decision they lived to regret . Cooler games didn't follow and the system quietly folded in 1994. If your parents refused to buy you a  Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, you were absolutely fucked.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego

Courtesy Everett Collection

‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’

Players used their knowledge of geography and research skills in order to decipher clues that would help them apprehend criminal mastermind Carmen Sandiego in this computer game, which was spun off into a popular children's TV game show. Host Greg Lee and actress Lynne Thigpen, who played the Chief, are pictured here. Do it, Rockapella!

Glass Joe Mike Tyson Punch Out

CC Image courtesy Charles Williams on Flickr

Glass Joe

Minuscule boxer Little Mac faces some pretty tough competitors in the Nintendo game Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, from the stampeding King Hippo to Iron Mike Tyson himself. But things start out very easy with Glass Joe, a thirty-eight year old French Boxer with a record of 1 win and 99 losses. It doesn't take many punches to knock him down (he has a bit of a glass jaw, get it?), but things get progressively tougher from there. Anyone who actually lost to Glass Joe had to live with that shame for the rest of their lives. 

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