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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, April 21

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There's some sort of big sporting event later this afternoon; maybe you've read about it. In honor of the Bears' first appearance in the Superbowl in 20+ years, let's look back at Chicago-influenced pop culture of 1985–1986, when the City with Big Shoulders was on a Ditka-engineered gridiron high.

"Superbowl Shuffle": This novelty record features a number of players from the 1985 lineup "rapping" to a painfully cheesy electronic track. The video itself is especially priceless, showing grown men, yes, shuffling back and forth. But they're doin' it for you! It begins with a man behind a drum kit, which is hilarious, considering that the song itself obviously uses the mid-80s staple of drum machines. The eventual Superbowl champs — so graceful on the football field — attempt basic synchronized moves (one could hardly call it "dancing") as they grunt "uh huh" repeatedly. Walter Payton and Jim McMahon each have several lines, and their footage is obviously superimposed over less famous folk. But William "Refrigerator/Rookie/No Dumb Cookie" Perry gets the best introduction: two still photos start small and grow larger and larger until he starts his solo. Oh, the technology! "Superbowl Shuffle" peaked at #41 on Billboard's charts, and all profits were donated to charity. The single was even nominated for a Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance (Duo or Group) Grammy. It lost to "Kiss" by Prince, who — in an odd bit of symmetry — is the only performer in this year's halftime show. The current theme of "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" suffers mightily by comparison, even when the Lyric Opera's Bryan Griffin takes a crack at it. There's not nearly enough cowbell.

Second City: The legendary improvisational comedy theater, which originated here in 1959 and opened its Toronto branch in 1973, switched owners in 1985. Current co-chairman and CEO Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart bought out Bernie Sahlins, and Alexander later added SC outposts in Las Vegas, Detroit and L.A. Chicago "graduates" from 1986 include Dan Castellaneta, best known as the voice of Homer Simpson, and local-girl-made-good Bonnie Hunt. Other alums recently in the entertainment spotlight include Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey. (A more complete list can be found here.) Arguably, Second City's heyday was during the '70s and early '80s, but there's never been a shortage of funny people who trained here, and it continues to churn out fresh talent, including lots of people who don't go to Saturday Night Live.

The Breakfast Club: The teen film of the '80s, and recently crowned the Best High School Movie by Entertainment Weekly. Based in fictitious Shermer, Illinois, it shares a zip code — 60062 — with Northbrook, director John Hughes's hometown, where part of the movie was shot. (According to, other locations included Chicago and Des Plaines.) For those of you living under a rock, the plot follows five teenagers suffering through Saturday detention for various infractions. Other than the clothes, the music and the slang, The Breakfast Club still resonates with its mixture of angst, humor and vulnerability. It remains highly quotable — Bart Simpson stole "Eat my shorts" from John Bender — if not timeless. Hughes later produced several other Chicago-based movies (Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone, to name two of the biggest), and the Brat Packers went on to varying degrees of success. Most recently, Anthony Michael Hall finished up as the lead in the TV series The Dead Zone, and Emilio Estevez directed the 2006 film Bobby, which featured an all-star cast.

About Last Night… : This is what happened to the Breakfast Club when they graduated college and moved into the city, almost certainly Lincoln Park. Based on David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago — the title was changed because many TV stations and newspapers wouldn't run ads with the original name — it followed two pretty people (Rob Lowe and Demi Moore) who try to build a genuine relationship from a one-night stand. They flirt at Kelley's Pub, along Lake Michigan, at Grant Park. Faux hometown boy Jim Belushi plays the obnoxious best friend and Elizabeth Perkins is the brittle, bitter single woman. No stereotypes here. It was filmed during the fall of 1985, at the height of Bears mania, and showcases our city well, if not how many of us viewed relationships in our mid-20s. Belushi now has his own "comedy" series on ABC, Lowe is on the alphabet network as well (guesting on Brothers & Sisters), and Moore just married to a man 15 years her junior. And Perkins looks like…this.[end] Oh, and she also has a role on Showtime's Weeds.

The Oprah Winfrey Show: No one would have guessed when this small, local talk show debuted in 1986 that it would turn into the enormous and successful juggernaut it is today. Oprah weathered several bumps on her way to becoming the richest woman in entertainment — the most recent being the James Frey debacle — but over the past two decades, she has managed to amass an amazing amount of power. Her recent decision to build a girls' school in South Africa garnered both praise and criticism, but she is not shy about putting her considerable money where her mouth is.

Will we have to wait another 20 years for the Da Bears to have another shot at the Vince Lombardi trophy? I can't say. But I can predict that Chicago will soldier on, in football and in entertainment.

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the CW's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at

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