Ahhh, the 1990s. The decade when Titanic ruled the waves, while Britney, Justin, Friends, and Bart and O.J. Simpson ruled the airwaves. It was the last decade before technology changed our lives. In 1991, just one website existed. By 1999, there were 280 million Internet users, and the Y2K bug threatened to destroyr everyone's Tamagotchi. Today, we'll take a look at all these things, and more so you can laugh at the terrible fashions, haircuts, and how backward the world was. So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... welcome to the crazy decade that was the 1990s!
Who can forget the 1990s megahit Friends? The show was one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time and still makes millions through syndication every year. Jennifer Aniston—aka Rachel Green—was the most popular Friend of them all. Men all over the world wanted to be with her, and women wanted to be her. Ladies everywhere asked their hairstylists for “The Rachel” haircut. It's just a shame that Jen hated it!
Aniston finally revealed what she thought of her iconic '90s hairdo in an interview with Glamour magazine. She even called the haircut “cringe-y” and said, “I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.”
Another icon of the 1990s was Britney Spears. Her music video for “(Hit Me)…Baby One More Time” defined the decade. The teenage singer memorably pranced around her high school dressed as a schoolgirl, but did you know that her love interest in the video was her real-life cousin Chad Spears? If you thought that would be a no-no, don't forget that they do hail from Mississippi! Just kidding.
Thankfully, they were only acting, and Britney went on to date '90s heartthrob Justin Timberlake, who we'll be hearing from a little later on. And his mom.
Not many people know this fact about the record-breaking movie Titanic (1997). Someone unknown is alleged to have spiked the cast and crew’s food with the drug PCP during filming. Also known as Angel Dust, the mind-altering narcotic can cause hallucinations, distorted perceptions of sounds, and violent behavior. As a result, around 80 people from the cast and crew ended up in the hospital for treatment, including director James Cameron.
They never found out who spiked the crew, but we reckon it might have been Jack. That's why Rose pushed him off that door they were clinging to... despite a team of science boffins proving there was plenty of room for them both!
At its height, Baywatch was watched by a staggering one billion people every week. It ran throughout the '90s and into the early 2000s and was famously a smorgasbord of beautiful actresses, hunky male models, and David Hasselhoff. But did you know that half the cast had a debilitating fear of water, including Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, and Pamela Bowen? As it turns out, Shawn Weatherly was even cast as a last-minute replacement for Pamela Bowen because the latter had hydrophobia.
The crew only found out when they filmed Bowen's first scene in the ocean, and she totally freaked out! A doctor ordered her to stay away from the water, and the production couldn't get her insured, so she was replaced.
If you know Seinfeld or his later creation, Curb Your Enthusiasm, it will come as no surprise that writer/producer Larry David had a rule that none of the Seinfeld characters were allowed story arcs in which they learned from their mistakes. Sitcoms, or situational comedies, are mostly about being trapped, and having characters that never grew or changed kept them stuck in their dire little lives for all of us to enjoy.
Larry David also had a strict no-hugging rule. This ensured the characters never got too sentimental, like in many other popular shows of the time. Here's looking at you, Friends!
Choker necklaces were a hugely popular 1990s fashion accessory that adorned the necks of many young women throughout the decade. They've even made a comeback in recent years. But those who wear them probably know little about the original purpose of a choker being a little saucier. Hop in a time machine and travel back in the 1800s, and you'll find similar choker necklaces were ten-a-penny.
Back in Victorian times, chokers were worn by sex workers so that men could identify them from other women. Perhaps that's how Jack the Ripper first identified his victims in the East End of London in the 1880s.
Back in '97, gorgeous singer Lene Nystrøm and her Danish-Norwegian dance-pop group Aqua released the chart-topping kitsch, earworm pop song "Barbie Girl" and became an overnight success. However, Mattel—the toy company that created the Barbie Doll in 1959—was not too happy someone was cashing in on their product, so tried to sue MCA records for copyright infringement. Were they successful?
Now, you might be expecting to hear news of a multi-million dollar settlement, but something far cooler happened. The lawsuit ended when a U.S Court of Appeals judge ruled, “the parties are advised to chill.” What a dude!
If the 1980s had Cabbage Patch Dolls, the '90s had Furbies. For some inexplicable reason, these terrifying Gremlin-like soft toys were all the rage. But, many people were convinced that Furbies contained computer chips that could record what people were saying. Of course, this conspiracy theory was untrue, but the NSA was spooked enough to ban Furbies from its offices. Such a silly conspiracy theory could never happen today, right?
Technology, privacy, and the world's sense of mass hysteria have moved on loads since the 1990s, and no one is definitely recording your every word, thought, behavior, and movement via your smartphone.
Everyone remembers the popular coming-of-age movie American Pie. They particularly remember Stifler's mom, what Alyson Hannigan did with the flute at band camp, and the err... coming... of age part. The apple pie Jason Biggs got fruity with was made of styrofoam, but do you know where the original pie came from? It was surprisingly easy to come by, and you could probably get a very similar one today.
The movie's laughs weren't the only thing that came cheap. The offending apple pie was purchased from the family-friendly wholesale giant Costco, probably at a cost of around $1.99. Talk about cheap thrills!
Another TV show that rocked the '90s was Beverly Hills 90210. The series told the tale of annoying twins Brenda and Brendon Walsh, played by Shannen Doherty and Jason Priestley. The season eight episode "Forgive and Forget" featured an unknown little band known back then as Kara’s Flowers. A decade or so later, they became world-famous rockers. But can you guess who Kara's Flowers blossomed into?
Kara's Flowers morphed into beloved pop-rockers Maroon 5. By 2019, Adam Levine and his band would be the halftime entertainment at Super Bowl LIII, joined by guest rappers Big Boi and Travis Scott. You've gotta start somewhere!
The classic fan-favorite Jurassic Park changed moves in 1993 by bringing dinosaurs to life with realistic CGI. But not all the movie's dinos were computer-generated. Some of them were actually giant animatronic creatures. The film's producer Kathleen Kennedy admitted that rainfall often caused the animatronic dinosaurs to malfunction, making them appear to “come to life,” which is probably the most terrifying thought we had all day.
She explained: “The T. Rex went into the heebie-jeebies sometimes. Scared the crap out of us. We’d be, like, eating lunch, and all of a sudden, a T-rex would come alive.” But there was no real need for alarm... not unless they learned to open doors!
Staying in a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth (and the box office). So, how do you actually create authentic-sounding roars for creatures who've been extinct for 66 million years? How do you even know what they sounded like? Do you perhaps use lion's roars? Nope! Jurassic Park's sound designer, Gary Rydstrom, came up with a rather ingenious method for creating those terrifying T. Rex screams that terrified us all as kids!
Inspired by the dog-like animated movement of the CGI T-Rex, Gary recorded his own Jack Russell Terrier named Buster, then slowed the recording down a whole bunch, et voila! He created the scary dinosaur sounds you know and hate!
Back in 1993, Internet users were worried about how quickly rumors could spread across the world wide web and be taken for gospel. According to BBC News, PC Professional columnist Lisa Birgit Holst often created bogus facts to “demonstrate the gullibility of email recipients.” One of her fake facts was that everyone swallows eight spiders a year in their sleep. Before long, her spider theory had spread far and wide.
The rumor is still believed by millions of world wide (spider) web users to this very day. Turns out those early web pioneers were right to be worried, as fake news, alternative facts, and conspiracy theories have taken over the Internet.
In 1991, the world's most famous fried chicken chain changed its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC. But, in a sign of things to come, people didn't want to believe that this was just your regular corporate rebrand to make the finger-lickin' good chicken outfit more manageable on the tongue and a ridiculous chicken-based conspiracy sprang up and spiraled out of control.
Bucket-guzzling customers believed Colonel Sanders was forced to remove the word "chicken" from Kentucky Fried Chicken as their tasty wings and burgers no longer contained chicken but instead were made from fifteen-foot tall Frankenstein's Chicken Monsters created in a laboratory from artificial meat.
Considering he was the most powerful man on earth, President George H.W. Bush didn't exactly know how to win friends and influence people. In 1992, on an official visit to Japan, he threw up into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. Bush blamed his food-based faux pas on extreme gastroenteritis. Or maybe he just didn't like him very much or wanted to start another US-Japanese war.
After the President's public puking, the good people of Japan had to come up with a new word, “Bushusuru,” which literally translates to “to do the ‘Bush’ thing.”
Late-1990s neo-noir, erotic crime thriller Wild Things (1998) starred a whole host of '90s names like Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Murray. But the real reason people parted with their money was to see two of the hottest actresses around—Denise Richards and Neve Campbell—in skimpy costumes. Kevin Bacon described the script as "the trashiest thing he had ever read" but added that "every few pages, there was another surprise."
One of those surprises was, no doubt, the two actresses making out. Neve Campbell later revealed that prior to filming their intimate kissing scene, she and Richards had to get drunk on wine and margaritas in Campbell’s trailer!
"Do you like scary movies?" So opens post-modern classic slasher movie, Scream (1996). Director Wes Craven didn't hold back when "helping" Drew Barrymore find her motivation during the film's opening scene when her character talks to the boogeyman on the phone before being murdered. Before cameras rolled, Craven wound Barrymore up with tales of animal cruelty to get into character, and boy did it work! Poor Drew is clearly terrified, perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the movie.
But it's not the first time scare tactics have been employed to petrify actors into realistic performances. The Exorcist (1973) director William Friedkin used to fire guns on set to get a reaction out of his cast!
On June 17th, 1994, a TV news chopper broadcast live footage of police chasing a white Ford Bronco speeding along Los Angeles highways. The vehicle's passenger was ex-NFL star and actor O.J. Simpson, evading police after his girlfriend was found murdered. The ensuing trial remains one of TV's most-watched programs with 95 million viewers. For comparison, 13.5 million people watched the Lost finale while 7 million watched the Game of Thrones finale.
Even though the trial aired on school days, it didn’t stop people from tuning in and ordering a record number of pizzas. It must have been America's least productive week ever... unless you own a pizzeria!
In 1991, after Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev kicked communism's butt, Russia elected President Boris Yeltsin, and Yeltsin was very much a character. Four years later, Yeltsin met with then US President Clinton, and the Russian's first words to Clinton were, “Do you think O.J. did it?” Clinton's reply goes unrecorded. But Boris' bad behavior gets worse! Much worse. After one debauched evening, in the middle of the night, Secret Service agents actually discovered Yeltsin drunk.
What's more, he was found wandering Pennsylvania Avenue, wearing only his underwear, and yelling for a taxi. Slurring his words, he argued with the baffled agents that he needed a taxi to go out for pizza!
By the mid-1990s, Tamagotchis were the world's top-selling toy. The handheld digital pet was created by Japanese inventor Aki Maita, and the invention earned her the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1997. The word Tamagotchi means egg friend, and the idea was to digitally "feed and water" the keychain critter in order to keep it alive for as long as possible to teach kids responsibility. Everyone had them.
The upside was that children the entire world over learned to practice having pets on these little guinea pigs before they got real guinea pigs. The downside was that kids got so attached to their Tamagotchi that when they died, the kids were as heartbroken as if they'd lost a real pet!
Iconic 1990s movie Empire Records (1995) tells the tale of a group of teenaged kids running a record store. Liv Tyler’s breakout Hollywood role led to her appearing in Armageddon (1998), The Lord of the Rings (2001), and many more. But did you know that her real-life stepfather Coyote Shivers played her Empire Records co-star “Berko”?
Shivers lied about his age in his auditions, and producers didn’t find out he was married to singer, model, and Playboy Playmate of the Month, Bebe Buell— aka Liv Tyler’s mom—until it was too late to recast!
In May 2021 — Björn Ulvaeus said ABBA would definitely release new music for the first time in 40 years since their 1981 album The Visitors. But it's not the first time there has been talk of the 1970s supergroup reforming. In the mid-1990s, ABBA were offered one billion dollars to come out of retirement and perform a worldwide reunion tour. Instead, they said Nej, which is Swedish for no.
We guess Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha, and Anni-Frid weren't in it for the Money, Money, Money, so didn't need to say Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. Especially Anni-Frid, as she became a real-life princess when she married Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss of Plauen!
In 1993, Space Marketing Inc. came up with the bonkers idea to launch a giant advertising billboard into Earth’s lower orbit. The billboard was to appear roughly the same size and brightness as the moon. Yet, however crazy the idea was, the US-based company somehow garnered significant support for the project. Perhaps investors thought it would be cool to live in the world of Blade Runner (1982).
Luckily the project never got off the ground, as it was shot down in flames before the biggest advertising campaign in the universe could be launched. As a result of the outrageous project, legislation was passed banning all US advertising in space.
During one run-of-the-mill lunch meeting at Pixar in 1994, filmmakers John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft set about brainstorming ideas to follow up what they felt would surely be their first smash-hit Toy Story (1995), on which production was already underway. In that one meeting, the talented trio came up with not one, not two, not three, but four of Pixar's next smash hits.
In that one lunch meeting, they threw ideas against the wall to see which would stick; they came up with rough outlines for A Bug’s Life (1998), Monsters Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and Wall-E (2008). We'll have one of whatever they were drinking!
As the Y2K loomed heavy on the horizon, the US Senate set up the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem to ensure a smooth transition into the new millennium and that everyone's computers wouldn't reset to 1970 or blow up in their faces. Then, on December 31st, 1999, the world waited on tenterhooks to see what global catastrophes would occur. But the NASDAQ didn't shut down. No planes fell out of the sky. In fact, nothing whatsoever happened.
The sun rose, birds sang, and all that research, funding, and preparation for the digital armageddon cost the taxpayer $100 billion.... for nothing. And you think normal New Year's Eve is an anticlimax!
Jerry's never-ending quest to find a girlfriend provided much of Seinfeld's laughs. When he did find a woman that could bear being in the same room as him for more than three minutes, his awkward relationships made for comedy gold that stood the test of time. But Jerry's girlfriends also introduced us to many of the 1990s best up-and-coming actresses, and it's quite a remarkable list of names.
They include Courteney Cox from Friends, Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad, Debra Messing from Will and Grace, Jane Leeves from Frasier, Jennifer Coolidge, aka Stifler's Mom, SNL's Janeane Garofalo, Lois Lane and Bond Girl, Teri Hatcher, and Amanda Peet from Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.
One name from the 1990s that you won't be familiar with is Justin Reardon. He was the advertising exec who came up with the infamous “Wassup?” commercial for Budweiser. The phrase immediately caught on and spread like wildfire. Within just a few short months, that one word had become a worldwide phenomenon, and everybody who was alive in 1999 had to utter “Wassup?” at least 20 times a day.
But what did Justin Reardon get for creating this globally-used word? He was rewarded for his hard work with a $250 bonus from his company and a baseball bat appropriately engraved with “Wassup?” Gee, thanks!
In 1994, Apple engineers nicknamed their new Power Macintosh 7100 "Carl Sagan" in reference to his catchphrase, "billions and billions," as they hoped it would make Apple, well, billions and billions. But their codename rubbed the late astronomer the wrong way as he was worried his words would be viewed as an endorsement. So, Sagan sent Apple a cease-and-desist notice, whereupon they changed the nickname to “BHA.”
Now, BHA happened to be an acronym for Butt-Head Astronomer. So, Sagan sued for libel, and the judge eventually ruled in Apple's favor citing that they were “clearly attempting to retaliate in a humorous and satirical way.”
During AOL's peak in the mid-to-late '90s, one-half of all the CDs on the planet were AOL software start-up CDs. The web portal and online service provider used a marketing strategy known as “carpet bombing,” which was the brainchild of America Online’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jan Brandt. Her approach was to offer free AOL trials by any means possible. You couldn't open a newspaper, magazine, or cereal box without finding a free AOL CD inside!
The marketing was widely successful and, in just a few years, AOL grew from 200,000 subscribers to over 22 million users!
Staying with AOL now. The company's famous email greeting was one of the most recognizable voices of the decade and even gave its name to a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film, You've Got Mail (1998). But would you have guessed that the man behind the famous phrase, Elwood Edwards, recorded those famous words on a cassette tape in his living room?
Yes, folks... just two and a half decades ago, multi-million dollar corporations didn't even have the technology to record soundbites without needing a pencil to fix a cassette tape when they were invariably chewed by Walkmans or unspooled across the floor.
In 1999, Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry filmed the golfing movie The Whole Nine Yards (2000). During filming—knowing that Willis was soon due to appear in Friends—the two new friends made a bet on whether the movie would be a box office success. Perry thought it would be a success; Willis disagreed. Nevertheless, The Whole Nine Yards went on to be very successful, and Perry won the bet.
But the part about appearing in Friends for free isn't strictly true. By losing the bet, Bruce Willis donated his entire Friends paycheck to several AIDS charities, sexual assault charities, and to help underprivileged children. Could you be any more charitable?
Starting in the 1970s, William Leonard Pickard manufactured huge amounts of LSD. By the mid-'90s, he had a monopoly on LSD production and world distribution. But how did Pickard know how to make the hallucinogen? Well, he was deputy director of the Drug Policy Research Program at the University of California!
By the time Pickard and his accomplice Clyde Apperson were arrested moving their LSD laboratory across Kansas in the back of a Ryder rental truck in 2000, they had manufactured 410 million acid tabs worth $8 billion. Yet, on July 27th, 2020, 75-year-old Pickard was granted compassionate release from prison.
Back to The Simpsons now. In 1990, when Michael Jackson was still viewed as just a bit eccentric, the infectious earworm "Do The Bartman" took over the airwaves. The song featured Bart Simpson on lead vocals, with Michael Jackson providing backup vocals. It topped the charts in many countries but—despite receiving much airplay—it was never officially released as a single in the USA.
Though MJ's involvement as backup singer and producer was known at the time, it was later revealed that Jackson had actually written the song. That said, he never brought attention to the fact as he wasn’t exactly proud of the comedy single!
Classic Disney movie Beauty And The The Beast (1991) featured a relatively unknown actor named Robby Benson as the voice of the Beast. But when the Chinese language version of the movie was released the same year, legendary actor and martial arts performer Jackie Chan starred as the Beast. And that's not all the action-movie star did; he sang, too! Because, believe it or not, Jackie Chan is a classically trained opera singer!
At the age of seven, Chan joined the Chinese Opera Research Institute. He spent the next decade training for the Beijing Opera—although the city was still called Peking in those days—and Pe-king up his mad martial arts and acrobatic skills along the way!
If you’ve ever wondered where '90s boyband *NSYNC got their name from, you can blame it on Justin Timberlake's mom after she commented on how "in sync" the boys were. Instead of using the boy's first initials, Mrs. Trousersnake came up with the name by putting together the last letters of each of the band members' names: JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, JasoN, and jC.
And it's a good job she used the last letter of their names, else they could have ended up being called *JCJJJ which doesn't roll off the tongue half as well. Imagine asking for Juh-Cuh-Juh-Juh-Juh latest single in the record store. That said, it worked for 1980s British pop band Kajagoogoo!
Okay, you're going to think we made this one up as it's too almost too crazy to believe, but we promise it's true. Before becoming President of the United States, abolishing slavery, and being assassinated, 6'4" Abraham Lincoln was a skilled wrestler. While 19th Century wrestling didn't feature flowing blonde locks, chest hair, lycra, and soap-opera storylines, it was—nevertheless—a popular sport.
Can you imagine it? "Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner, standing six-foot-ten in his stovetop hat... with just one defeat in twelve years (that's true!) may we introduce Abraham "Beast Mode" Lincoln. Now let's get ready to rumble!"
Did you know that Frank Sinatra died smack bang in the middle of the U.S. West Coast's airing of Seinfeld's series finale? Around 15 minutes into the finale, a 911 call was placed from Sinatra’s Beverly Hills home. Ole Blue Eyes had suffered a heart attack. The ambulance arrived and transported him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in record time due to very little traffic.
The streets were empty as 76 million Americans were glued to their TV sets. Among them was Sinatra's daughter, Nancy, who lived just five minutes away. Sadly, she didn't get to say goodbye to her dad as she was engrossed in Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer's final adventure... which is just about the most Seinfeld storyline imaginable!
In 1990, the First Lady openly criticized America's newest favorite TV show, The Simpsons. Barbara Bush called the animated series “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” Somewhat surprisingly—as the Simpsons only have four fingers—Mrs. Bush received a hand-written letter from Marge Simpson in which the Springfield housewife asked FLOTUS to reconsider her judgmental attitude and that her hard-working, blue-collar family was just doing the best they could.
The First Lady apologized in public to Marge for her “loose tongue,” which was perhaps also a result of gastroenteritis. We wonder what went through her mind when she wrote the letter.
The world's most identifiable (and annoying) cell phone musical ringtone comes from a classical composition called “Gran Vals,” written by Spanish composer and classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega. The ringtone first appeared in a Nokia commercial in 1992, one hundred years after it was written. The tune was added to Nokia's cell phones in 1994. You're humming it now, aren't you?
Just as weird a fact is that cell phone pioneers, multinational telecoms, IT, and electronics company Nokia was founded in Finland way back in 1865. The business was founded as a pulp mill before expanding into rubber and making wellington boots! That's all from us as the phone's ringing.... Doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle-durr!
If you don't know what letters are, they're like emails but on paper. On June 23rd, 1994, country music legend, singer Johnny Cash penned the “Greatest Love Letter of All Time” to his then-wife June Carter for her 65th birthday. His heartfelt prose talks about their many years together and is just about the sweetest love letter you'll ever read. Grab the nearest box of tissues before you give this a read.
Perhaps the best line reads: "Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met." Awww, bless.