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A Guide to the New Cultural Elite : Twentysomething-O-Rama

June 06, 1993|MICHAEL WALKER | Michael Walker is a Los Angeles-based journalist. His last article for this magazine was on Seattle's rock scene

For some 38 million Americans, July 16, 1990, will live forever in infamy. On that sorry day, Time magazine, in a 4,528-word cover story, christened an unsuspecting generation by torturing the name of a failed TV show about baby boomer angst. Thus were the twentysomethings-a.k.a. Generation X, Baby Busters, Posties-launched into Their Own Private Media Event. Although twentysomethings profess to have had it with press overkill, there is something to be said for exposure. As baby boomer and strangely enduring pop-culture icon Alice Cooper has noted: "As long as you can keep them thinking about you, you've got it made."

The Stats

* At last count, there were 38 million twentysomethings, born from 1964-1973. (There are 72 million baby boomers, born from 1946-1964.)

* 40% have divorced parents.

* 30% still live with their parents.

* 80% of the men and 66% of the women from 20 to 24 haven't married.

* 70% cannot afford to buy a home.

* 12% are unemployed.

Can We Quote You on That?

"We are clueless yet wizened...purposefully enigmatic and indecisive"

--Bret Easton Ellis

I Wink, Therefore I am: "Lifestyle (Snort) Statements"

Ironic detachment is to twentysomethings what fastidiously faded Levis were to their baby boomer moms and dads. T-somethings are consumed by disillusionment and delight in jealously noting that boomers got the New Frontier, Free Love, LSD-25 and rock and roll, but they got Reagan-Bush, AIDS, Just Say No and Lite Everything. Hence the telltale smirk. (Besides, wearing Robert Culp sunglasses is hilarious.)

We Are The World: A Guide to Twenty-something Heavy Hitters

Music

MVP: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, below. For bringing Grunge to the masses and "Territorial Pissings" to national TV.

Post-Feminists Just Wanna Have Fun Award: The Riot Grrrls, for having enough attitude to eclipse patronizing MS.-era feminists.

Hendrix Lives! Award: Lenny Kravitz, for turning bitchin' '70s riffs and duds (flares, platforms) into a one-man multimedia event.

HOLLYWOOD CO-MVP: Robert Rodriguez, for unwitting embodiment of Disney exec Jeff Katzenberg's memo-shooting "El Mariachi" for $7,000 (earns $1.7 million).

Co-MVP: Rosie Perez, right, for her magnificent hectoring of Spike Lee in "Do the Right Thing."

It Could Be You (But It Isn't) Award: Marisa "Rodham" Tomei ("My Cousin Vinny") for giving hope to downtrodden twentysomethings by nabbing Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Mrs. Robinson Boy Toy Award: Brad Pitt, for bedding thirtysomething Geena Davis in "Thelma & Louise."

Literature

Poet Laureate: Bret Easton Ellis, though a twentysomething no more, for his deadpan ennui in "Less Than Zero," which made him a Spokesman for His Generation.

Boswell: Douglas Coupland, also past the Big Three-Oh, for "Generation X," the unofficial source of twentysomething slang, e.g., McJobs and blip-mipments (fleeting romances).

MVP: Donna Tartt. For extracting nearly $1 million in advances for "The Secret History."

Television

MVP: Jeff Zucker, NBC News. For parlaying a grunt-level network research job into "Today" show's executive producer post, bagging (then leaving) same job on "Nightly News." Now running new magazine series for NBC.

Ms. Congeniality: Tabitha Soren, reporter, MTV News. For interviewing Axl Rose and George Bush as if both were in bands, and for reportedly responding to Sam Peckinpah reference in an interview with, "And who's that?"

Look, Honey! A '66 Frigidaire!: Twentysomething Interior Decor

The twentysomething home aesthetic, when funds are available for more than bricks and boards, balances a craving for early-1960s retro-trash with ultra-high-tech accouterments.

Possible cause: Tumultuous childhood (two-career families; divorce) creates nostalgia for home life never experienced. Idyllic TV families provide example. Result is a cross between "My Three Sons" breakfast nook and a spread from The World of Interiors.

Retro:

* Two-speed Waring blender

* Streamlined two-slice Toastmaster toaster

* Fruitwood-encased 1960s-vintage Magnavox TV/eight-track player

* Orlon-covered "motel moderne" sofa

* BarcaLounger easy chair (vinyl)

* "Butterfly" sling chairs

* Adjustable gunmetal "tree" lamps

* Wurlitzer console organ with "Bossa Nova" stop

* First-generation Amana

* "RadaRAnge" microwave

* Ashtrays from Playboy Club

Luxe:

* "Cannonball" four-poster beds with 100% cotton everything

* Mission armchairs with cracked leather seats

* Repro Frank Lloyd Wright "Johnson Wax" office chairs

* Mahogany coffee, end tables

* Lloyd Loom wicker settees

* Window treatments from Pier 1

* Rolled-arm sofas in mattress-ticking stripes

* Pilasters

* Mexican tiles

* Stained-glass sidelights

* Claw-footed bathtubs with nickel-plated fixtures

* Palladian windows

* Matte-black combination laser disc/CD player with remote

* (L.A.) Westec Security system with armed response

* (New York) "Fox" police lock; dead-bolt; anti-jimmy bar

On the Other Hand. MTV: Some, Uh, Stars are Born

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