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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.)

Cybill Shepherd

Cybill Shepherd

Watch her seminal Bruce-Willis co-starring Eighties sitcom Moonlighting to see why this Seventies sex symbol renewed her career in the Eighties. The following decade's Chuck Lorre-helmed sitcom Cybill also deserves revisiting. 

Dabney Coleman

Dabney Coleman

If you were casting a movie in the 1980s and you wanted a Robert Loggia-type with a little less edge and a little better comic timing, Dabney Coleman was your man. He had crucial roles in WarGamesNine to Five, Cloak & Dagger, and countless others. He's in his eighties now and hasn't done much of note in the 2000s, but man was he on fire in the days of VCRs.  

Robin Leach Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’

This syndicated TV series, which ran from 1984 to 1995, featured oily Aussie host Robin Leach leading viewers on tours of the gaudy manses of business moguls and celebrities. Pre-Cribs, the show presaged our current all-access obsession with the privates lives of the one percent, though Leach’s signature sign-off, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams”(delivered in his snooty accent), seems embarrassingly tin-eared in these more economically troubled days.

Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler

NBA icon Clyde Drexler didn't have the flashy personality of Charley Barkley, the endorsement deals of Michael Jordan, the huge ego of Magic Johnson or the tear-jerking backstory of Larry Bird. He was simply Clyde the Glide, a key member of the 1992 Dream Team who lead the 1995 Houston Rockets to an NBA Championship. He's a color commentator for Rockers home games today and, unlike Sir Charles, nobody is asking him to host Saturday Night Live these days.

Scott Valentine Nick Moore Family Ties

Nick From ‘Family Ties’

Sometimes a sitcom character comes around that's only meant to last for a few episodes, but the public falls instantly in love with him and he's upgraded to regular cast member. Inevitably, it's someone with a loud personality and some sort of schtick. That's pretty much the story of Nick Moore on Family Ties. Played by Scott Valentine, he was the leather jacket/earring-rocking boyfriend of Mallory Keaton, played by Justine Bateman. He was monosyllabic and the nightmare of her father, but America loved him, though his 1987 spinoff  The Art of Being Nick was extremely short-lived. The Nick Moore experience was like eating a giant bag of marshmallows for dinner. Some things are better in small doses. 

Corin Nemec

Corin Nemec

For many millennials, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is about as old a movie as they're likely to watch. Well, imagine an early-1990s TV Ferris Bueller with crazy shirts, gelled hair, near-magical powers and a nerdy sidekick. This was the main character from Parker Lewis Can't Lose, a goofy high school show that's been widely forgotten by everybody that wasn't ten years old in 1991. Nemec was in a near-fatal boating accident earlier this year, but he recovered. 

Lauren Holly

Lauren Holly

Holly scored key roles on highly regarded efforts like CBS' Picket Fences (1992-96), the lovely ensemble comedy Beautiful Girls (1996), and hits like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). But it was the actress's relationship with Jim Carrey, her co-star in 1994's Dumb & Dumber, in which the two shared an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, that made her a brief tabloid fixation. Holly and Carey were married from 1996 to 1997.

Gunnar Nelson Matthew Nelson


Blessed with long flowing golden locks and their father's teen idol looks, Ricky Nelson's teenage sons Gunnar and Matthew Nelson had a monster debut LP in 1990 with After the Rain. Their two hits "After The Rain" and "(Can't Live Without You) Love and Affection" are actually pretty great, but soon grunge hit and they seemed hopelessly dated just one year after they were hot new thing. Today they tour the country with a musical tribute to their father. 

Bushwick Bill

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

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

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

‘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

‘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

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


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

‘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

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

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

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


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

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

Floppy Discs

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



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

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

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


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

‘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

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.