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Monday, April 30, 2012

My Girl

ARTIST:  The Temptations
SONG:  My Girl
ALBUM:  The Temptations Sing Smokey
DATE RELEASED:  December 21, 1964

I think this might be one of the few times in which I’ll start off a blog entry with a music video.  While the song itself isn’t the subject of discussion for today, it is linked to the Monday matinee for today.  And, it’s also a movie that fits into the special BEST FRIENDS week.

This song by the Temptations hit the top of the charts in early 1965, and it happened to be the band’s first number one hit.  It also happens to be a song that is heavily featured in the soundtrack of today’s movie.

Set in the summer of 1972, our feature presentation focuses on an eleven year old girl and the various adventures that she has with her best friend.  But Vada Sultenfuss isn’t your typical preteen girl.  She has a few...quirks shall we say.

And we’ll be taking a look at every single quirk that made Vada who she was, as well as the only friendship that she had by her side.

The movie we’re going to be looking at happens to be named after that famous Temptations hit.  That would be the 1991 coming of age film, “My Girl”, starring Anna Chlumsky, Dan Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Macaulay Culkin.

The film was released on November 27, 1991, and did fairly well at the box office, making almost $60 million on a budget of $15 million.  The movie was Anna Chlumsky’s first role as a major star (her debut was a bit part in the movie “Uncle Buck”, which coincidentally also starred Culkin), and she actually won an MTV Movie Award for her role in the film (which she shared with Culkin...but more on that a bit later).

The movie takes place in the town of Madison, Pennsylvania, and almost immediately, we notice that Vada Sultenfuss (Chlumsky) is not like the average young girl.  Rather than play with Barbie dolls and easy bake ovens, she’s more at ease being a tomboy.  Her most prized possession is her mood ring, which for some reason always stays black in colour, but nevertheless, she’s never seen without it.

Oh, and she happens to live in a house that doubles as a funeral parlour.

Vada’s father, Harry (Ackroyd) works as a funeral director, and because the Sultenfuss residence happens to be the place where Harry works, Harry often brings his work home with him.  While Vada eats breakfast in the kitchen, there’s at least one dead person just a couple of rooms over.

Sounds a bit creepy, right?  I know I would be freaked out over it.

If you thought that living in a funeral home would affect Vada’s childhood, you’d be correct in your assumption.  Because Vada was surrounded by death on any given day, she sort of developed a bit of an obsession with death.  She also developed a case of hypochondria, believing that she was coming down with various diseases or deformities, likely as a result from hearing about how the people who were being prepared for funerals had died.

But we also learn that Vada’s feelings about death began at a very early age.  When Vada’s mother gave birth to Vada, there were severe complications, and she ended up dying.  Vada had believed that she had killed her mother, but she never really talked about it with anybody.  As much as she tried to talk to her father about things that were troubling her, her father seemed uninterested, and he didn’t know how to relate to her.  It was a frustrating situation for Vada, but she coped as best as she could.

Luckily, she could count on her one true friend, a young boy close to Vada’s age named Thomas J. Sennell (Culkin).  Although other kids made fun of Thomas for being geeky and unpopular, none of that stuff mattered to her.  Thomas J got who she was and liked her anyway.  To Vada, Thomas was “intellectually stimulating”, and that was good enough for her.

As the summer of 1972 kicked off, Vada was in a good place.  Although she still visited the doctor’s office at least once a week for a new “health scare”, Vada was determined to make this summer a good one.  She became friends with her father’s newest co-worker, a young woman named Shelley DeVoto (Curtis).  Shelley came on board as the hair and make-up artist for the Sultenfuss funeral parlour, and immediately grew close to both Vada and Thomas J.  Vada also discovered that the teacher that she was crushing on was teaching a creative writing course during the summer, and Vada was determined to secure herself a spot in the class...even if it meant raiding Shelley’s trailer for the $35 necessary to enroll. 

But Vada was also starting to see her friend, Thomas J, in a whole new light. 

Sure, at the beginning, the two of them did the same things that most eleven year olds did.  They rode their bicycles, went fishing, and drank soda out of the same aluminum glasses that I remember my grandparents owning at one time.

But, Vada and Thomas J shared something very close and personal.  They even became “blood brothers” for life.  I wonder how many kids during the early 1970s did the same thing that Vada and Thomas J had done?

As time passed, things began to change for Vada.  Shelley and Harry started dating each other, and Vada was stunned to hear that they were engaged after just weeks together.  Vada wasn’t sure exactly how to handle this bit of news, and she sought advice from Thomas J, which eventually would lead to this moment.

Everyone remembers their first kiss.  And for Thomas J, it was a fantastic moment for him. 

(It was also a fantastic moment for Culkin and Chlumsky, who won the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss in 1992!)

At that moment, he began to see Vada in a whole new light, and Vada’s reaction to the kiss pleased him enough that he had to do something nice for her. 

Thomas J remembered that during an incident where they shot each other with water guns and threw rocks at beehives, Vada lost her prized mood ring, and Thomas J thought that it would make Vada incredibly happy if he found it for her. 

Sadly, Thomas J would end up meeting a horrible fate.  The bees didn’t take too kindly to the two kids destroying their home, and they swarmed a defenceless Thomas J, who unbeknownst to him had a severe allergy to bee venom.

Suddenly, Vada’s whole world comes crashing down.  The one person who always believed in her, who was always nice to her, who always stood by her no matter what was gone.  She had no idea what she was going to do without her best friend.  Despite Shelley bending over backwards to console her, and despite a little neighbourhood girl named Judy offering up her condolences, Vada was inconsolable.  It all came to a head when Vada made an appearance at Thomas J’s funeral.

All the while, Shelley was growing increasingly frustrated at Harry’s lack of understanding towards Vada.  She got into a huge argument with Harry at Thomas J’s funeral, where Shelley begged Harry to see that life wasn’t always about death, and that he shouldn’t ignore the living...especially when Vada needed him the most.

Now, you might believe that I have spoiled the ending of this film by revealing the ultimate fate of Thomas J.  However, there’s so much more to this film than that.  In the end, Vada comes to a few conclusions about herself, and she comes to an understanding with each person that she was close to.  Oh, and there’s one final “goodbye” to the past, and I’ll give you a hint.  It involves the prized mood ring that Vada loved...the same ring that played a role in the terrible fate that befell Thomas J.  I've also enclosed a chart below corresponding with mood ring colours, and well...if you watch the movie, this becomes an important piece of symbolism.

I’ll be the first one to admit it.  This movie really did move me.  I remember watching the movie for the first time when I was right around the same age as Vada and Thomas J (I was ten when it was released in theatres), and immediately getting choked up.  I didn’t care.  It was such a powerful film, and Anna Chlumsky did such a fantastic job as Vada.  You really felt her emotion and her pain over losing such an important person in her life.

It’s tragic enough to lose a dear friend who you have shared so much with.  I felt that same pain this past December when I had to say goodbye to someone who I had known for well over ten years.  But to have to go through that pain as a child is absolutely unimaginable.  For Vada Sultenfuss, it was probably the single worst moment that she had ever had to face in all of her eleven years.

But despite losing her best friend, Vada still cared very deeply for Thomas J.  Although Thomas J was physically gone, Vada knew that somewhere out there, he was always watching over her. 

I think “My Girl” is the kind of movie that demonstrates the very friendship that all of us want to have in our lives.  And even if something happens where one of the friends passes away, as long as the other one keeps holding on to the memories, and remembers all the good times that they shared, does this really mean that the friendship is truly over?  A point to ponder for sure.

But consider this.  A sequel to the film, “My Girl 2” was released three years after the first.  And in the sequel, Vada has now become a livelier and more mature teenage girl.  But, Vada never did forget about her fallen friend.  And, if you watch the sequel really closely, you’ll see that Thomas J was never far from her mind.

Seriously, watch “My Girl”.  I can’t think of a better film that showcases the subject of friendship.  But, you may want to buy a box of Kleenex before viewing.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You're My Best Friend

Day two of BEST FRIENDS week brings us to the Sunday Jukebox portion of the week, and I have to say that I was blown away at how many songs there are about friendship!  With dozens of songs to choose from, I definitely didn’t have a shortage of material today.

But which song would I feature today?  That is the $64,000 question.

I’m not kidding about the vast selection of choices.  Here are some of the songs briefly considered for today’s entry, but decided not to.  In some cases, I already featured the artist or subject of the song in a previous entry, and in others, it’s because I didn’t think I could create an appropriate entry based on the subject of friendship.

-      “Count On Me” – Whitney Houston
-      “I’ll Be There For You” – The Rembrandts
-      “You’ve Got A Friend” – Carole King (covered by James Taylor)
-      “Friends and Lovers” – Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson
-      “That’s What Friends Are For” – Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder
-      “With A Little Help From My Friends” – The Beatles
-      “Anytime You Need A Friend” – Mariah Carey
-      “(You Got To Have) Friends” – Bette Midler
-      “In My Life” – John Lennon and Paul McCartney
-      “Stand By Me” – Ben E. King

(Stay tuned’s entirely a possibility that you might see these songs pop up in a future Sunday Jukebox entry.)

The reason why I chose the song that I did was because of a couple of reasons.  First, the song was written by a member of today’s featured band as a token of affection to someone close.  And the second reason stems from the bond that each of the members of the band shared with one another...a bond that the public was witness to after one of the band members passed away.

We’re going back thirty-six years for this hit.

ARTIST:  Queen
SONG:  You’re My Best Friend
ALBUM:  A Night At The Opera
DATE RELEASED:  May 18, 1976

Yes, this blog entry is all about the British rock band Queen.  The band, which was composed of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon, formed in the early 1970s and over the next two decades achieved great success.  With eighteen number one albums, eighteen number one singles, seven Ivor Novella awards, and a 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Queen has definitely made their mark on the music industry.

And within the band, each of the members shared an incredibly close bond with each other, and when tragedy struck one day in the autumn of 1991, the world soon saw just how strong that bond was.  But, we’ll get to that a little later.

For now, let’s talk a bit about the song, “You’re My Best Friend”.  The song first appeared on the band’s fourth studio album, “A Night At The Opera”, an album that came out in 1975.  The song peaked at #16 in the United States, and made the Top 10 in the United Kingdom.

The song was written by John Deacon, who was the band’s bass player, and here’s a bit of trivia for you in regards to how he ended up joining the band.  He was actually the final member to join the band, and he was recruited solely for his quiet personality, which was a stark contrast to the vibrant, boisterous nature of lead singer Freddie Mercury.  But, that’s the way he liked it.

And Deacon was responsible for writing several singles for Queen that became huge hits.  “You’re My Best Friend” was only the first.  He also wrote “I Want To Break Free”, “Back Chat”, and “Another One Bites The Dust”.

But “You’re My Best Friend” is the song that was probably the most personal for Deacon.  He wrote it for his wife, Veronica.

This particular song required Deacon to play two different instruments...his bass, and a Wurlitzer electric piano.  During live performances, a grand piano was used, and Mercury played it while Deacon stayed on bass.  The reason the piano switch was needed was because of Mercury’s dislike of the electric piano.  In an interview that the band did with BBC Radio One on Christmas Eve 1977, Deacon and Mercury explained it all.  

“Well, Freddie didn’t like the electric piano, so I took it home and I started to learn on the electric piano and basically that’s the song that came out you know when I was learning to play piano.”  Deacon explained.  “It was written on that instrument and it sounds best on that.  You know, often on the instrument that you wrote the song on.”

“I refused to play the damn thing.” Mercury shot back.  “It’s tiny and horrible and I don’t like them.  Why play those things when you’ve got a lovely superb grand piano?  No, I think basically what he (Deacon) is trying to say is it was the desired effect.”

The filming of the music video was itself an exercise in discomfort.  The video was filmed in April 1976, at the time that the United Kingdom was experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures.  So, for the music video to be filmed in a ballroom with thousands of lit candles and no air conditioning, you can only imagine how hot that video shoot must have been! 

Nevertheless, the single was released one month later, and another Queen hit was on the charts.

Over the next fifteen years, Queen would have huge success in both the United Kingdom and the United States.  “We Are The Champions”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Radio Ga Ga” and many more hits topped the charts, and Queen was well on their way to becoming one of Britain’s most successful music groups of all time. 

What made Queen’s rise to the top all the more sweeter was the fact that there wasn’t really a whole lot of fights between the band members.  I imagine that like most bands, the members had their share of squabbles and petty arguments, but none of those disagreements even came close to some of the vitriol and venom spewed by similar bands over the years.  All four members of Queen really did treat each other the way that mates really should. 

By 1985, the band seemed unstoppable.  Their performance at the Live Aid festival (which you can watch a clip of the band singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Radio Ga Ga” below this paragraph) was widely considered to be one of the band’s greatest performances ever, and a 1986 tour was hugely successful, with some of the show dates selling out in just under two hours! 

But that 1986 tour was one that was incredibly bittersweet.  It was one of the band’s most successful tours, but it would also end up being the band’s final tour together. 

A couple of years after that tour, British media started to notice that something wasn’t quite right with Queen...particularly with lead singer Freddie Mercury.  It appeared as though Freddie Mercury was losing too much weight, and his physical appearance was beginning to change.  People also noted that Mercury’s energy seemed to be dwindling, and while Mercury was not known for giving many interviews, he seemingly ceased giving them altogether by the time the 1980s ended.

There were rumours circulating through the British media that Freddie Mercury was HIV positive for years, and many believed that it had developed into AIDS by the late 1980s.  At first, Mercury denied the rumours, stating that he was just suffering from exhaustion.  But by the time the 1990s rolled in, the grim truth was evident all over Freddie Mercury’s gaunt face.

He was dying.

However, Freddie refused to give up on the band.  Despite his failing health, Mercury insisted on working in the recording studios, and as a result, the band released two more albums.  1989’s “The Miracle” and 1991’s “Innuendo”.  May even recalled one incident that occurred during the recording of one of the accompanying singles from “Innuendo”.  When the band was recording “The Show Must Go On”, Mercury was in rough shape.  He could barely walk into the studio.  May was worried about his bandmate and friend, and he didn’t believe that he was capable of making it through the recording of the song.

Here’s the video for that song.  Judge for yourself.

May later said about the performance that “(Mercury) went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal.”

The band would later release their second greatest hits compilation in October 1991.  But just one month later, on November 23, 1991, Mercury was on his deathbed.  Whether he knew that his time was coming, or whether he just wanted to come clean to the world, Mercury finally admitted to what much of the public seemingly had known all along.  Freddie Mercury did in fact, have AIDS.

Twenty-four hours later, on November 24, 1991, Freddie Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia, a complication of AIDS.  He was just 45 years old.

The news hit hard for a lot of people.  Freddie Mercury’s death was not the first one linked to AIDS, but he was the first major named rock star to succumb to the disease.  And, Mercury’s bandmates really wanted to do something to honour their fallen friend and bandmate.

In 1992, the three remaining members of Queen worked together to form the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charitable organization named after Mercury dedicated to fighting AIDS worldwide.  It celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, and the current trustees include May, Taylor, manager Jim Beach, and Mercury’s long-time friend, Mary Austin.

The Mercury Phoenix Trust was made possible thanks to the support from a significant event that the band would organize in tribute to Freddie.  That event would end up becoming one of the most talked about concerts that year, and even earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most watched concert event ever with an estimated one BILLION people worldwide tuning in!

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness took place on April 20, 1992, at London’s Wembley Stadium.  72,000 tickets were printed up for the event, and within three hours, the concert was sold out.

Because it was a benefit concert, there were several guest artists that appeared in support of the cause.  Annie Lennox, Metallica, George Michael, Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Robert Plant, Paul Young, Seal, David Bowie, and countless others entertained the crowd.  Perhaps the most poignant moment of the whole concert was right at the very beginning, when the three surviving members of Queen walked out on stage to greet the fans and pay tribute to their friend.

Shortly after that concert aired, John Deacon left Queen to work on other projects, but May and Taylor are still committed to the Queen name, as well as to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.  And in that moment twenty years ago, we saw three men give one of the most thoughtful and passionate tributes to a man who put a permanent stamp on rock music.

If that’s not a token of friendship, I don’t know what is.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SBTB: The Preppie and The Jock

Can you believe that we’re almost into the month of May?  2012 really seems to be flying by, doesn’t it?

May is a rather important month for this blog.  The blog’s first anniversary happens to be in May, so I really wanted to make the entries for this month quite special.  I never thought that I’d be hosting a blog, let alone hosting one for almost one whole year! 

May is also a fairly big month for this blogger as well.  This blogger’s birthday happens to be in May, and I have a little something planned for around that time as well. 

But before we get into May, we have to finish off the final weekend of April.  And, I can’t think of a better way to end April and kick off May than with a theme week.

This week’s theme week has to do with friendship.  Some of the entries will feature friendships between two very unlikely people.  Some of the entries will make you laugh, while others may make you cry.  And this week’s Thursday Confession will be one of my most personal ones ever, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, let’s get started with BEST FRIENDS WEEK with the Saturday morning entry.  And, as you can tell, the subject happens to be about the enduring friendship between a preppie and a jock.

I hear what some of you are saying.  How can two different high school social classes get along with each other?  Well, to tell you the truth, they didn’t at first.  During this Saturday morning NBC show’s first season, the preppie and the jock hated each other, and did everything that they could to one-up each other.  But as time passed, and the show gained in popularity, they started to get to know each other, and found that they had more in common than they thought.

Today, we’re taking another look back at the NBC Saturday morning sitcom, “Saved By The Bell” to focus on one of the more interesting friendships on the show.

Zack Morris and A.C. Slater.

Zack and Slater met each other for the first time at the beginning of their ninth grade year at Bayside High School, and both of them could not have been any more different from each other.

Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was your stereotypical California prep.  Blond-haired, with an expensive wardrobe, and a mobile phone as big as a loaf of bread, Zack was the boy that many guys wanted to be like, and many girls wanted to date.  He was popular, and he knew how to socialize.  The downside was that he often got into trouble for not putting as much effort in his homework as he did with his datebook.

Contrast that with A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez).  An army brat, he was forced to move to several different places in the time span of just a few years.  Los Angeles, California was just the latest stop on the way, and by this time, Slater was used to it.  He did long to have a more stable childhood, and his greatest dream was to be able to stay at one school for more than one semester to live the life of a normal teenager. 

Needless to say, when Zack and Slater first met, it wasn’t exactly under the greatest circumstances.  In fact, almost immediately, both Zack and Slater clashed with each other, and the reason behind that was in the guise of a happy and perky fifteen year old cheerleader named Kelly Kapowski.

Kelly was the most popular girl in school, and she was also the nicest and kindest girl in all of Bayside High.  Some might actually agree that she was a little bit TOO kind for her own good.  She was also incredibly beautiful.

And both Zack and Slater wanted Kelly as their girl.

For Zack, it was understandable. Zack’s crush on Kelly was years in the making (despite the fact that Kelly never appeared during the “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” years at all).  Zack had idolized Kelly from afar.  He even had a cardboard cutout of her in his bedroom, which looking back on it seems a little bit on the creepy side now, but that’s just how much he wanted to be with her.  Kelly was the kind of girl that Zack wanted.

It’s just a shame that Slater also ended up developing a crush of his own on her.

The first year and a half of “Saved By The Bell” seemed to revolve around the Slater/Kelly/Zack love triangle.  Zack would try everything in his power to woo Kelly away from Slater.  He sold her skin cream invented by Screech to give her an edge in a beauty contest (only for the cream to turn her whole face a sickly shade of maroon).  He tried to intervene when Slater tried to give Kelly driving lessons (which lead to Slater and Kelly crashing the car into a wall of lockers).  Zack even tried to convince Slater to move to Hawaii by pretending that the rest of the school wanted him to go!  But no matter how hard Zack tried to get rid of Slater, Slater refused to go down quietly.  In many cases, Slater proved himself to be quite the foil to every single one of Zack’s crazy schemes.  It almost got to the point in which Zack got incredibly annoyed with Slater for always being the one to ruin every scheme Zack came up with.

It also didn’t help at all that Slater had developed a friendship with the school principal, Mr. Belding...the same Mr. Belding who took much delight in giving Zack more detention passes than anyone else at Bayside High combined.

So, given that their first impressions of each other weren’t that great, how was it that Slater and Zack ended up becoming friends?

It all started when the love triangle between the two of them ended.  It was the prom, and Kelly had decided that she wanted Zack as her date.  Slater was dejected, but he ended up going to the prom with Jessie Spano instead.  But something happened to Kelly’s father.  He had lost his job, and there wasn’t enough money coming into the Kapowski household.  Kelly ended up giving her father the money that she was going to use to buy her prom dress, and she ended up having to cancel her date with Zack.  Zack, naturally, didn’t take it very well, and he was very angry.  But it wasn’t until someone told him about the real reason why Kelly backed out of the prom date that Zack had a change of heart.

And you know who was the one who set Zack straight?  Slater.

I think Slater ended up doing it for a couple of reasons.  For one, I think that he really did still care for Kelly as a friend, and he wanted to defend her decision to Zack to get him to see that he really should feel bad for her, instead of angry at her.  But, deep down, I think that it bothered Slater to see Zack so unhappy.  Although the way he talked to Zack was a bit curt and to the point, he really did it for Zack’s benefit.  I think this scene was probably the one that really thawed the tension between Zack and Slater.

As Zack and Kelly grew closer, Slater soon found that he was falling for Jessie.  And, would you like to know who ended up being a silent supporter for Slater and Jessie?


Granted, some would like to believe that the only reason Zack supported the Slater and Jessie union was so that Slater would stay away from Kelly, and maybe there was a little bit of truth to that.  But Zack had also been friends with Jessie since kindergarten (barring that brief moment in “Good Morning, Miss Bliss where Jessie, you know, didn’t appear at all).  The last thing that Zack wanted was to see Jessie get hurt.  For Zack to throw his support to Slater in his relationship with Jessie, it really said something.

In fact, when Zack and Slater ended up getting Kelly and Jessie mad at them, they ended up working together in an effort to ask for their forgiveness.  With assistance from Screech and Lisa, Zack and Slater set up their apology theatre at The Max.  Below is the scene featuring Slater’s apology to Jessie.

Yep...still painful watching this scene twenty years later.

The point is that the plan worked, the girls forgave the guys, and Zack and Slater realized that they made a fantastic team.

Zack and Slater would also end up looking out for each other in more ways than one.  When Slater was given a wrestling scholarship, but was afraid to tell his father (who expected Slater to go into West Point) that piece of news, Zack did what he could to help Slater out.  The wrestling scholarship was something Slater really wanted, and Zack really wanted Slater to be happy.

Mind you, the way Zack went about it was absolutely insane (he basically pretended to be Slater’s father and pretended to be Rambo during the pre-admission interview from the West Point representative), and he nearly got himself and Slater in a world of trouble.  However, in the end it all worked out, and Slater really appreciated Zack’s help.

Zack, in turn, was motivated to help out one of their mutual friends after Slater noticed something was off.  Jessie had developed an addiction to caffeine pills to try and balance schoolwork with the all-girl group she had formed with Lisa and Kelly.  Slater knew about it and tried to convince Jessie to give them up, but Jessie angrily blew him off.  So, Slater went to the person who knew Jessie better than anyone.

Of course, Zack refused to believe Slater at first, and he told Slater off.  But then Zack came across this scene...

...and he quickly realized that Slater was telling the truth.

Time passed, Jessie kicked her addiction, and Zack and Jessie were both grateful to Slater for getting involved.

Those are just some of the many examples that helped cement the friendship between Zack and Slater.  And by the time they graduated from Bayside High in 1993, they were the best of friends.

Mind you, that road was not easy going.  One moment, they were happily working on a school assignment or sharing a milkshake at The Max with Kelly and Jessie.  The next moment, they were doing this...

...but isn’t that what friendship is all about?  The highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows?

Both Zack and Slater experienced highs and lows at Bayside High.  But both of them still maintained a great friendship because they could find a way to forgive each others mistakes.  After all, Zack helped Slater plan a funeral for his dead chameleon.  And Slater helped Zack deal with his pain when he ended up breaking up with Kelly and Stacey Carosi, and practically every other woman Zack dated on the show.

And really, Zack and Slater were positive influences on each other.  Whereas Zack was a little bit spoiled and out of control, Slater really did a lot to help ground Zack, and made him realize that maturity could be a good thing.  And Zack became a friend to Slater when Slater was having a hard time making and keeping friends.  Zack basically introduced Slater into his circle of friends, and as a result, Slater ended up with five of the best friends he ever had.

So you see?  Sometimes first impressions can be overcome, and people can become really close after their first meeting ends in disaster.

Zack Morris and A.C. Slater are the living (albeit fictional) proof of that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Minnesota Twins of 90210

I'm sure that most everyone knows the stress that can stem from moving to a new house. During the first five years of my life, my family moved a grand total of four times. But at the very least, we stayed within the same city.

Imagine a family moving across the country from one city to another.

I've never been in a situation like this, so I can't relate to it. But, I can only imagine that it must be a rather scary situation to be faced with at first. You're leaving behind a town that you had an identity in, and about to move to a new community where you have absolutely no ties to family or friends.

Well, all right, I suppose for some people, the thought of abandoning a dysfunctional family and fair-weather friends would be their idea of heaven.

Not so much for the television family that we're about to meet. At least not at first.

This particular family moved from the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and relocated to Beverly Hills, California. Right off the bat, the culture shock would be incredible. Imagine moving from a community known for having down-to-earth people and all four seasons to a town known for excess spending, expensive cars, and where the temperature is over seventy degrees the majority of the year.

Now imagine being a high school student faced with this move. It would be quite an adjustment, wouldn't it?

And yet that's the fate that the Minnesota Twins of Beverly Hills 90210 had to face.

That's right. This entry is all about Brandon and Brenda Walsh, played by Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty.

When the show debuted on October 4, 1990, almost immediately, we saw the struggles that Brandon and Brenda had to endure. For Brandon, he was the all-American guy, incredibly down-to-earth, diplomatic, and non-judgmental. Those qualities worked very well for Brandon in Minnesota, but upon moving to Beverly Hills, he really struggled with keeping those morals in check.

And Brenda had a tougher time. Being a new student at a high school was bad enough, but being a new student at West Beverly Hills High was a living nightmare for her. She found it hard to keep up with the trends and the fads, and her insecurities about herself were magnified by a million. Brenda just wanted to fit in, and she didn't feel that she would ever measure up to the rich, privileged students at West Beverly High.

But as time passed, Brandon and Brenda would end up finding their place in West Beverly, and six very special people would attach themselves to the Walsh twins in ways that not even they would have imagined.

For this blog entry, I really did a lot of research, as it has been years since I watched Beverly Hills 90210. I did have some knowledge of who the characters were, but when I looked at them in great detail, the different relationships that Brandon and Brenda had with these six people are just too detailed not to talk about.

So, going in order of the credits, let's look at how each of these six people carved out a permanent spot in the hearts of Brandon and Brenda Walsh.

Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) was probably the one person who both Brandon and Brenda had the closest relationship to, both in different ways.

Kelly and Brandon always had a friendly relationship with each other, and Kelly seemed to trust Brandon's word more than anyone else in the series. Eventually, these feelings of friendship would grow into feelings of romance, as Brandon and Kelly became a couple while they were in college. Their relationship ultimately ended, but they always maintained their friendship. In fact, I would reckon that Brandon's friendship with Kelly was instrumental in transforming Kelly from a materialistic princess to a more grounded young woman.

As for Kelly's relationship with Brenda, theirs was more tumultuous. Initially Brenda wanted to be Kelly's friend so that she could fit in with the West Beverly crowd, and at first, Kelly and Brenda's friendship was a bit superficial. Their friendship only began to grow after Brenda hosted a slumber party, and Kelly shared some very personal secrets about herself.

In that moment, Brenda and Kelly became really close, and both of them shared everything with each other. But then a man came between them both and nearly ruined their friendship forever. We'll get to that a little bit later.

Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) was the son of a sitcom star, and was used to the life of privilege. Unfortunately, he was spoiled so rotten that he ended up developing a poor attitude. He believed that he was untouchable, and he used people to get what he wanted. But his friendship with the Walsh twins would open his eyes in a huge way.

Steve befriended Brandon almost immediately after the Walsh twins arrived at West Beverly, and at first Steve's advice got Brandon into trouble. But, Brandon saw some decency inside Steve, and he continued to stand by Steve no matter how often he screwed up (which was in almost every single episode).

But Steve was very appreciative of Brandon's friendship, and he shared things with Brandon that he would never have shared with anyone else before, such as the fact that he was adopted. And, whenever Steve had any sort of problem, Brandon was always there for him no matter what.

Steve's relationship with Brenda wasn't as close, but they too became good friends. There was one instance in their college years when Brenda was being sabotaged in a play by Steve's girlfriend which caused tension between them, but they worked it out.

Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris) was a curious case. Let's look beyond the fact that she was a sixteen-year-old girl played by someone who was 29. Andrea was someone who didn't quite fit the mould of stereotypical West Beverly socialite. Andrea was a bookish type who never followed the fashions and glitz of West Beverly. Unlike most people who traveled to school in their own cars, Andrea took the bus. And, this is where the problem lay. You see, Andrea lived outside the West Beverly High school district, and was ineligible to even attend school there. But she wanted to stay at West Beverly because it was the best school in the county, and she wanted an edge to go to the best school.

But this is where her own friendship with the Walsh twins would come into play.

Andrea's first impression of Brandon Walsh wasn't a good one. She thought he was a pompous jerk. Brandon in turn thought that Andrea was incredibly judgmental and needed to lighten up. But then Brandon discovered her secret about where she lived, and Andrea was forced to tell him the truth. To Andrea's surprise, Brandon was incredibly understanding, and he managed to keep Andrea's secret (until it was eventually revealled in a future episode), establishing his firm friendship with Andrea. After all, both of them were a lot alike. Brandon and Andrea's friendship went through some hurdles, but both of them were incredibly close and stood by each other. When Andrea was run over by a hit-and-run driver, Brandon helped her with her recovery. When Brandon had a problem that he couldn't find an answer for, Andrea was a great listener. Both of them worked together as co-editors of the West Beverly Blaze. And when Andrea ended up becoming pregnant, Brandon was there for her every step of the way.

Now you'd think that Brandon and Andrea would have developed a romantic relationship with each other given their fondness for each other. Don't think that thought didn't cross their mind...

...but in the end, Andrea and Brandon worked better as friends.

Brenda was also a positive influence on Andrea, and both of them shared a lot of lovely moments with each other.

Well, except for the time Brenda slapped Andrea when both of them were falling for their summer school drama instructor...

But when things were good between the two, they were very good. Brenda was the one who convinced Andrea to join her and her mother at the West Beverly Hills fashion show. Brenda was instrumental in getting Andrea to develop her self-confidence. Andrea also was a great friend to Brenda. She helped Brenda deal with her position at a teen hotline, and she helped Brenda find some self-confidence of her own with her understanding and kindness.

Now we're getting to Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), and his influence on the Walsh twins was, to say the least, explosive.

It wasn't so much that way with Brandon, although he and Brandon's friendship seemed to be strongest under the most extreme circumstances. When Brandon almost fell off a cliff during a summer trip, Dylan saved his life.

Dylan also ended up saving his life again when Brandon ended up getting involved in racking up gambling debts, and he was in over his head. With assistance from Nat, the owner of the Peach Pit, they bailed Brandon out. Brandon in turn was Dylan's shoulder to cry on when his father was presumed dead in an explosion, and when Dylan's newlywed wife was killed.

Oh, and Dylan got Brandon the job at the Peach Pit as well.

However, while Dylan's friendship with Brandon was unbreakable, his relationship with Brenda was filled with drama. At first, it was nice for both of them. When Dylan wasn't smashing potted plants on the sidewalk, he and Brenda were really good together. He helped Brenda deal with surviving a robbery attempt at the Peach Pit, and he and Brenda ended up taking their relationship to the next level after a school dance. It seemed as though Brenda and Dylan would be together forever and ever.

And then Brenda went off to Paris for the summer.

It was actually an idea that was encouraged by Brenda's father, who had a lot of issues with the Brenda/Dylan relationship. Initially, Kelly was supposed to go, but Brenda went in her place, leaving Kelly back in Beverly Hills with Dylan. One thing lead to another, and Dylan and Kelly ended up having an affair while Brenda was in Paris. And when she found out, it was quite brutal.

This would end up leading to the Brenda/Dylan/Kelly love triangle, in which Dylan couldn't decide who he loved more. And of course, Kelly and Brenda's friendship was forever tarnished. In the end, they all managed to come to an understanding with each other, but things were never quite the same after that.

I can't recall much of a connection that Brenda and Brandon had with David Silver (Brian Austin Green), mainly because in the early seasons, David was a grade behind the rest of the crew. But I can remember Brandon and Brenda being sympathetic and reaching out to him after one of David's friends accidentally shot himself at a party.

The final character to look at is Donna Martin (Tori Spelling), and Donna was probably the one person who was the closest to the Walsh twins. Had it not been for Brandon, Donna would have not been able to graduate. Donna ended up having a little bit too much champagne before the prom, and not knowing her limit, it didn't take too long for her to get plastered. Unfortunately, a new rule stated that any student caught with alcohol at the prom would be banned from graduation.

Brandon worked hard to launch a protest against the school board to let Donna Martin graduate. He arranged it so that everyone would leave the school during final exams. If Donna couldn't graduate, nobody graduated. Brandon's plan was crazy, but it ended up working, and Donna was incredibly grateful.

But as close as Brandon and Donna were, Brenda and Donna were almost inseparable. Donna and Brenda probably had one of the closest friendships ever featured on the whole show. Sure, Brenda was friends with Kelly and Andrea, but they all had at least one falling out on the show. Brenda and Donna never did. In fact, Brenda was probably the one person that Donna confided in the most. When it was discovered that Donna had scored poorly on her SAT's, Brenda lent a sympathetic ear, and she supported Donna as Donna learned she had a learning disability. But Brenda proved her loyalty to Donna even more when Donna had discovered that David had cheated on her. 

After that devastating moment, you know who Donna went to see?  Brenda.  And, Brenda had Donna feeling much better about herself.  In fact, Brenda's kindness towards Donna inevitably lead to Donna finding the strength to stand up for herself.

So there you have it. You have the Minnesota Twins of 90210. You can see that they had a lot of impact on their new West Beverly High friends, but at the same time, they ended up learning a lot about themselves seeing how the other half lived.

For Brandon, he didn't have to sacrifice his morals and ethics to get people to like and respect him. He somehow managed to fit into the rich social circles of West Beverly High and came out of it still very much respected. Then he went to college and had an affair with a much older woman, but hey, nobody's perfect.

For Brenda, I think she learned that she could go anywhere in the world, and still be perfectly okay. And, she also learned that her Beverly Hills friends were much more loyal and caring towards her than the Minneapolis friends she left behind when she opted to go back to Minnesota for college. She had intended for it to be a warm reunion with all of her old friends, but in the end, they ended up treating her like dirt. Brenda didn't even last a month. She left Minnesota and moved back to Beverly Hills to be with the friends who really mattered to her most.

The Walsh twins were such a driving force on the show, but neither one lasted until the end of the series in 2000. Brenda moved to London at the beginning of season five and never came back (stemmed from Shannen Doherty's sudden departure from the show), and Brandon would leave for Washington D.C., only three years later. But even after they were gone, their influence lived on in the cast members who remained. Kelly became more grounded. Steve became less of a jerk. Donna became more self-confident. Andrea lost her perfectionist nature. David became more of a man and less of a boy. And even Dylan was positively affected by the Walsh twins at some point.

Brandon and Brenda Walsh may have been fictional characters, but if they were real, they would probably be the best friends that anyone could have.