I remember the '80s as a mean decade. In 1981, when I was six, my parents separated. I started eating a lot, and kids teased me for being fat. I watched a lot of TV. Saturday mornings meant Pop-Tarts and "Felix the Cat." Eventually I would get into harder songs.
My dad had my brother and me on weekends. On Friday nights, we would go to Straw Hat Pizza and watch "The Dukes of Hazzard" on the big screen. One of the big mysteries of my childhood was why we never saw the face of the man playing guitar. Also: It didn't escape me that the bad guy on the show was fat, like me.
My dad had a little apartment in Torrance. I remember that one of the shows we watched a lot was "The Fall Guy." The theme song was way too complex for me -- it's about women, and I still barely understand it when I listen to it now, because all the actresses it mentions are from the '70s and '80s.
I think I empathized with "Diff'rent Strokes" because Arnold was different from everyone else. "Diff'rent Strokes" was a show that in retrospect seems amazingly confrontational: Plotlines centered on such scary topics as racism, child molestation and drugs. I'm still baffled, though, by the line about Willis and Arnold having "nothing but the jeans." Whatchootalkinbout, "Diff'rent Strokes" theme song?
One of my favorite theme songs was "Knight Rider," but it was everyone's favorite theme song. Because it's so masterfully cold and mean and Reaganomic. One day at school, we had to stand up and say what kind of animal we were. I said I was a duck-billed platypus, because they're so unique. Jesse, one of the Farrah Fawcett-haired metal guys who used to beat me up, said he was a black panther.
What is "Street Hawk," you ask? A short-lived show that was kind of "Knight Rider" on a motorcycle -- with maybe the meanest theme song ever. My years as a fat kid turned me into a runner, and today I run around listening to this.
Oh wait: Did I say "Street Hawk" was the meanest theme song around? My mistake. The theme from "V" is pure evil. Note how it surges hopefully only to turn scary again. My parents got back together, and I remember that one of the biggest problems of my life was that "Street Hawk" and "V" were on at the same time.
My mom worried a lot about violence on television, and she didn't let us play with guns. Once, there was an episode of "The A-Team" where some pacifists insisted the A-Team solve a problem non-violently. The A-Team refused. My mom was disappointed. Inspired by "Red Dawn," "The A-Team" and our general fear of Soviet attack, my brother and I formed rival paramilitary teams in the summer of 1985. We carried canteens and wore camouflage and threw rocks at each other in the canyon near our house.