The Generation Gap: Annette Who?

Fame is fleeting.  Icons come.  Icons go.  They are generational.  How often does fame span more than a couple of generations?  Somebody who was an icon in 1985 may be unknown in 2010.  Fame in 1965 might not endure through 1990.

We all know the story of two teenagers who were standing in line at Starbucks and saw a Paul McCartney solo CD.  At the time, the CD was critically acclaimed with the accompanying hype.  One of the teenagers turned to the other and asked, “Wasn’t he in a band before?”  The other responded, “Yeah.  It was pretty famous -- Wings.”

Given the cycle of fame and iconic status, the humor of that story may be lost on some people.  But it actually shows generational differences and how icons come and go.  Mention Morrissey to a room full of 20 somethings and be prepared for blank looks.  Similarly, mention Beach House or Vampire Weekend to a room full of 50 somethings and be prepared for blank looks or questions about where those movies are showing.

If you were asked to name a famous Disney “girl,” your answer most likely would reflect your generation.  Would you name Miley Cyrus, who has spent the last week in headlines for her less than Disney-like antics?  Britney Spears, the former Mouseketeer who careened off the tracks in the mid-2000s?  Hilary Duff?  Christina Aguilera?  Demi Lovato?  Jennifer Love Hewitt?  Lindsay Lohan?  

A bunch of older folks might name Annette Funicello, an original Mouseketeer who went on to star in a series of beach movies.  Like Cher and Madonna after her, she was known by her first name.  Annette never went to rehab or bared it all.  Instead, she was the girl next door who “matured” -- to the delight of millions of pubescent boys.  Her biggest crisis was being rejected by Paul Anka.  She survived that, made some movies, released some records, and disappeared to raise a family.  When she was stricken with MS, she started a charity.  Earlier this year, Annette died in Bakersfield at the age of 70.

To the unhip in the post-War and Boomer generations, Annette represented the female side of California beach life.  Therefore, when the Funicellos agreed to team up with us for a show at Shine, the first idea for a poster that popped into my mind was something based on a “Beach Party” type poster.  “Muscle Beach Party” really did not seem to fit us.  A buff Pup just was way off the mark.  

But the poster for “Bikini Beach” had potential.  Annette and the Pup.  A woodie and blanket.  That combination hit the old kitsch button!

Taking the poster around SacTown, however, dampened that enthusiasm.  The generation gap and fame cycle became evident.  Maybe the poster was kitsch in an unexpected way.  “Is that a Dalmatian print swim suit?  Interesting, a dog in a Hawaiian shirt and . . . .”  The parody on the “Beach Party” movie posters was lost.  Even her death earlier this year did not bring Annette into the consciousness of non-Boomers.

Upon hearing “that’s Annette,” the response was, “Annette who?”  That was an object lesson:  Who is an icon is in the memory and the generation of the beholder.  So is humor.

1 comment

  • Anthony

    Anthony sactown

    very true. there will be a few kids out there who may know but mostly not. funny. You remind me that as a kid I was one of those who knew of older icons. My favorite pin up girl was betty page. It is important to know where you come from if you want to know where your going. :-)

    very true. there will be a few kids out there who may know but mostly not. funny. You remind me that as a kid I was one of those who knew of older icons. My favorite pin up girl was betty page. It is important to know where you come from if you want to know where your going. :-)

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