This week, in honor of the DCH Prom (get your tickets here), the What We're Loving Crew travels back to the bygone days of high school, and shares their memories of the pop culture that shaped them into the men and women they are today. I attended senior prom in the spring of 2004 in Mansfield, TX. Now I understand that many of you view me as the peak of cool, which is fair as I’ve been known to sometimes receive comments on these blog posts, but dear reader, I haven’t always been like this. Back in high school, I was a staunch nerd who wore pleated pants and moved midway through my junior year. Basically, I didn’t have a ton of friends. In fact, I think it could be easily said that the person I spent the most time with during my senior year was Conan.
I wasn’t always familiar with the work of Conan O’Brien. I’ve always been more old man than child and didn’t often see the benefit of staying up past 9:00 pm. So when I first saw the ad on Comedy Central stating that the network was going to start to re-air Late Night with Conan O’Brien every morning, I didn’t know what to expect. At the same time though, I didn’t have much else going on, so I decided to give his show a shot and it quickly changed my life. Soon, I wasn’t just watching the morning re-run, but I was actually staying up until 11:30 to watch the original airing. That’s 11:30 PM! Don’t tell my parents.
I loved everything about Late Night with Conan O’Brien and in 2003-2004, he was knocking it out of the park on a nightly basis. This was the time that amazing improvisers that I’ve come to adore later in life, people like Jon Glaser and Kevin Dorff, were creating some of the most memorable bits and characters in the history of the program. The best example is the Walker, Texas Ranger lever, which still might be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on a talk show. I remember watching Walker as a kid and being really confused as to whether I was supposed to take it seriously or laugh at it, and Conan’s show allowed me to view a dramatic show through a humorous lens. It sounds dumb, but I had never been given that sort of permission before I watched his show. Also, even though Conan was constantly poking fun at anything and everything, I never got the impression that his humor came from a mean place. The way his guests responded to him in each interview, you could tell he was well liked and respected. His ability to walk that line between laughing with someone and laughing at them is something that I still strive to accomplish.
Fun note: This past spring, I actually got the opportunity to see Conan O’Brien live when he came to Dallas. It was one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended because this man gave me something to look forward to each day when there weren’t many other reasons to wake up. And the way he went about earning those laughs on a nightly, or in some cases, morningly basis, was highly influential on the person I am and the person I continue to work towards being. I got a TON of things wrong when I was 17, but loving Conan was definitely something I got right. - David Allison
Eleven years feels like a lifetime ago, while simultaneously feeling like yesterday. I've heard that happens as you get older and the decades start zooming past you. Now I can agree with all of those fogies that time does speed up as you get older. I graduated high school on May 31, 2003, the day before my 18th birthday. And just a few weeks after my Senior Prom. That's a lot of coming of age milestones crammed into a pretty small window of time. I've spent the past few days really trying to step back into my younger self. What did I like? How did I think?
I liked a lot of things because I thought it was funny to like them more than liking them because I actually appreciated or enjoyed them. I know at some point I found a "Retro Dance" channel on the digital cable set of audio channels. I fell in love with the words "Retro Dance" as a genre of music . I did a persuasive speech in English class on the topic of Disco and its need to make a triumphant return. I don't think any of my friends or classmates actually believed I was into "Retro Dance", but I think I had my family going. My dad talked to me quite a bit about Donna Summer.
I had the Entertainment Tonight theme song as my ringtone on my Nokia. Yes, it was a midi. Was I a fervent fan of Entertainment Tonight? No. Was I even a mild fan of Entertainment Tonight? No. Did it crack me up when people would first have a look of "this sounds familiar" to "oh, I know what this is" to "why?"? Yes, it did.
Again for English class assignment, we had to bring an ornament for Christmas that meant something to us along with a quote, and present it to the class. Most everyone else had something meaningful: Bible quotes, a line from a Maya Angelou poem, or just something generally moving. I brought a McDonald's toy that was some sort of pink creature with a weird nose. I couldn't identify it. My quote, "I've always wondered what a lifetime supply of pudding looked like" was from the movie, Dude, Where's My Car? I thought it was a solid choice. Though if we can get real, I'm sure I was using this sort of wall of funny as a defense mechanism against exposing any honest feelings.
At some point in my twenties, I started to appreciate things for more than their ha ha, ironic value, and I daresay cultivate a deeper, more refined taste. But if I had need for a ringtone (I prefer my phone on silent), I would totally seek out Entertainment Theme song. In midi format. - Ashley Bright
The year was 1995. I was a senior at small quaint Mt. Greylock Regional in Williamstown, Massachusetts. And I was in love with Pulp Fiction. My love affair with Quentin Tarantino’s second film began the previous summer. On a visit to NYU I picked up a copy of Film Comment and discovered that Pulp Fiction had won the Palm D’Or at Cannes. Being a fan of Reservoir Dogs, I was excited to hear about Tarantino’s next film. There was no real internet, no blogs back in 1995. I received all my movie news from television and magazines. Even before I saw a frame, Pulp Fiction became an obsession. Over the next few months, I gobbled up every morsel of Pulp info like a Big Kahuna burger. I read every article, tracked down the influences, watched Tarantino on Charlie Rose. As soon as the soundtrack came out, I bought it. My friends and I would listen to it in the car on the way to school every morning, trying to decipher as much as we could about the movie from the dialogue samples.
Finally, in October, the movie opened. I watched it Friday afternoon, right after school. I felt I knew so much about the movie that I wouldn’t be surprised. But I knew nothing. The parts I knew about – the watch monologue, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny in the diner, Zed’s death – were better than I imagined. And the parts I didn’t know about – Bret’s big brain, the adrenaline shot, the Wolf – were like nothing I had ever seen. A celebration of genres and stories and actors and cinematic moments, and everything worked. Everything but Tarantino’s performance as Jimmy. That naughty-naughty move he does with his fingers when Jules makes fun of the hand-me-down clothes makes me cringe every time.
I saw the movie again on Sunday. And again a week later. And again a few weeks after that. All told I saw Pulp Fiction six times in the theater. On my spring break trip that year, I laid in bed one night and started quoting the movie, word for word, from the beginning, while waiting for the room to stop spinning. I reached the cab conversation with Esmeralda Villa Lobos before I passed out.
There’s been a kind of revisionist history over the past fifteen years in regards to Tarantino’s oeuvre. Some people will say Jackie Brown is his best movie. For others it’s Inglorious Basterds. Django Unchained has its supporters. Those are all great movies, but Pulp Fiction is still the masterpiece. In the cinema of my lifetime there are two distinct phases: Before Pulp Fiction and After Pulp Fiction. The movie changed movies. To be there, to see it happen as it happened, that was truly special. – Ryan Callahan
Ah, prom season. The year was 2008. It was a simpler time when we were all "Bleeding Love" with Leona Lewis, getting "Low" (… low low low low low) with Flo Rida, and it was relevant, even humorous, to quote "My New Haircut" and "Unforgivable" through the high school hallways. I was loving all of those things along with my peers, but there was one thing I was very alone in loving. I was completely alone in being obsessed with the Australian comedy show, The Chaser’s War on Everything. The Chaser is an Australian comedy group, and this show was a satire of…well…everything. If you put The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Soup, and Candid Camera into a blender and mixed them all up, this show would appear in your glass when you poured it out, and it would taste damn good.
After everyone in my house went to bed, I would watch clip after clip on Youtube. It was just me, my dark bedroom, and Australian satire for hours. I couldn’t fully appreciate the jokes poking fun at their politicians, but I was completely on board at all of their merciless jokes at the expense of journalist Anna Coren and the rest of the Current Affairs/Today Tonight news team. Another part of the show I had no problems fully appreciating was Chaser member Andrew Hansen, my first internet-love. One segment he appeared in was "If Life Were A Musical." He and the other Chaser members broke out into song and dance directed at unsuspecting people on streets, in stores, and even once to The Veronicas. I was convinced he and I were perfect for each other, and I would imagine him singing songs to me and making me giggle. I haven’t thought about him in years, but writing this is bringing back so many old feelings. So...I think now is as good as time as any to make my move. Andrew Hansen, in the slim chance that you’re reading this: will you please go to DCH’s prom with me? I promise there will be singing and dancing and summer romancing. Come on. Make this girl’s high school dreams of come true. Just dance with/marry me already! See you Saturday! - Amanda Hahn