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RSVPhillippi |October 2015


By Dennis Phillippi

All of us here at RSVP are very excited about the magazine turning 20 years old, even though we know at this age it thinks it knows everything and is going to be full of empty-headed ideas about politics it won’t shut up about. The upside is next year the magazine can drink legally.    

1995 was a huge year, and not just because of the debut of this fine publication. 1995 was the year the Internet officially became a thing. Until that year, the Internet was privatized and was no longer driven by government money. America Online swept in so that every citizen, at least the ones willing to load a free disk onto their computer, pay a monthly fee, and wait for the interminable fax line racket to subside, could make contact with strangers at an excruciatingly slow pace. All kidding aside, it’s hard to imagine that in 1994 the vast majority of us did not have access to the Internet. People in bars had to just keep arguing about someone’s batting average or whether or not this guy or that guy directed that movie. It was the dark ages. In March of 1995, Yahoo made the scene with the very first search engine made available to the public. It also made a handful of nerds gozillionaires. Eventually, Wikipedia rolled around, making this column possible. You think I can actually remember things that happened 20 years ago? I don’t remember what I had for lunch.    

1995 began with the big kick-off of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, which dragged on from mid-January to early October. Even now, after all these years, I’m still not sure what I think about that whole circus, except that it was indirectly responsible for the explosion of judge shows on the TV, and that alone is a good enough reason for Juice to be in the clink.    

I’m not going to dwell on this one, but also in March of 1995, Mississippi ratified the thirteenth amendment, officially becoming the last state to approve the abolition of slavery. Better late than never, fellas.    

Another milestone from 1995 was the introduction of the DVD, eventually rendering all of those episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation obsolete. There are still old VHS tapes in the top of the closet in our laundry room. Many of them are unlabeled, and the rest appear to be various stand-up comedy shows I did, which, thankfully, are no longer viewable. Not that the comedy wouldn’t hold up. I’m sure most of it, the jokes that don’t reference Beanie Babies, Newt Gingrich, or “Full House” at least, would still be funny enough. I just don’t want to see the 1995 me. Aside from the Saget mullet I sported, I also owned and wore onstage plaid pants, jackets with shoulder pads, both bright green and bright blue suits, and very colorful ties. The Grunge movement hit in 1995, but, at 31, I was already too old to start slouching around in flannel shirts and jeans that were bought pre-torn.      

The movie “Toy Story” debuted in 1995, the very first full-length computer animated feature film ever released. Before that, and I know hardly anyone remembers this, animated films were flat and drawn by actual human beings. “Toy Story” is terrific, still holds up great, and all of the CGI movies that have followed have been amazing achievements, but it had to be a drag for all those people who, you know, could draw.    

The 55-mile per hour speed limit was abolished by President Bill Clinton, making him the hero to everyone who had been speeding since the Carter Administration. This was a real thing, for those of you who don’t remember. The speed limit on all U.S. Interstates was set at 55 miles per hour, a pace that drove everyone, including Sammy Hagar, insane. The idea was to conserve oil, but the result was making criminals of virtually every single one of us.    

At the movies we had pre-lunatic Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” and hubris-addled Kevin Costner throwing “Waterworld” at us. Alicia Silverstone starred in “Clueless” long before we realized that Alicia Silverstone actually was clueless. In music, we had Seal singing “Kiss From a Rose” and Canadian Rocker Bryan Adams croaking out “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” Sadly, we also had those monsters Los del Rio taking the world by storm with “Macarena,” a dance tune so infectious new antibiotics had to be invented. Oh, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in, of all places, Cleveland, OH, making it one of the most hated tourist destinations for many Memphians. We still went, but we grumbled the whole time. We still do. And this is a tribute to stubborn persistence: Madonna had already been a thing for a decade. 20 years ago.      

All in all, it genuinely was a more innocent time. It was six years before September 11th, people had to actually sit at home and watch television, waiting until the next week to see the next episode of something instead of watching an entire season over the weekend, smart phones were a long way off, so people in bars weren’t constantly looking at a blue light in their lap. I’m no Luddite, the forward movement of science and society is generally a good thing in my book, but in 1995 we were more communal in a different way, a more human way, and, in retrospect, that was a nice thing. Maybe we were kind of clueless too, but we were very colorful. And we didn’t know about Cosby yet.