When KDKA transmitted the first commercial radio broadcast (the election results of the Harding-Cox race) on November 2, 1920, that sound could travel magically through the air to a location many miles away must have seemed magical to the people of that era. Unfortunately, few people heard the broadcast because there were not many radio receivers around at the time. Regardless, the novelty of the radio caught the public’s imagination and soon, manufacturers could not keep up with the demand for radio receivers. Between 1923 and 1930, a whopping sixty percent of American families purchased radios and a custom where families gathered around a glowing box for night-time entertainment took root, forever changing American culture.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) is a 1975 film adaption of the British classic rock musical stage play written by Richard O’Brien. The movie, a parody of science fiction and “B” grade horror films, was a popular cult movie that developed a tremendous following during the mid to late 1970’s. Following on the success of the stage play version, the movie carried over many of the actors from the stage production, including Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter), Little Nell (Columbia), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), and Jonathan Adams (narrator), who rose to stardom riding the waves of the Rocky Horror Picture Show mania.
In 1880, Emile Berliner invented the flat phonograph record and recording/playback device called the Gramophone, the direct forerunner to Victor Talking Machine Company’s Victrola phonograph. Three years earlier, in 1877, Thomas Edison had invented the cylinder phonograph. Two problems kept the cylinder phonograph from succeeding though – the wax recording media wore out quickly and you could not mass produce the cylinders. Berliner’s Gramophone on the other hand, used a flat rubber and plastic disc design that allowed copies of the records to be manufactured via a printing press type machine.
Although the principle for moving pictures had existed for decades, the popularity of motions pictures (aka movies) did not explode until the 1920’s. At this time, most United States film production occurred in Hollywood with some minor movie productions still being made in New Jersey and Long Island (Paramount). By the mid-1920’s, theaters were operating in full swing with some offering double features and selling seats for as low as a nickel a piece. By the end of the 1920’s, there were more than twenty Hollywood studios and together, in a ten year span, they created the greatest output of motion picture feature films in history.
Vaudeville, popular from the late 1880’s through the early 1930’s, was a theatrical form of entertainment in the United States and Canada. Vaudeville performances, which often ran around the clock, ran a series of separate, unrelated acts which included musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, male and female impersonators, acrobats, jugglers, and one act plays. Famous celebrities were featured at the beginning of the vaudeville shows to attract attendees while the weakest acts put at the end in order to clear the house.
Popular in the 1940’s, the Jitterbug dance originated two decades earlier in African American dance clubs in and around Harlem, New York. Unflatteringly, the Jitterbug dance term came to be associated with swing dancers who danced without any control or knowledge of proper dance moves, such uncontrolled dance movements because typically the dancers were drunk. In fact, the term jitterbug comes from an early 20th-centry slang term used to describe alcoholics who suffered from the “jitters”.
File sharing is the sharing or distribution over the Internet of electronic files such as multimedia files (moves and music), electronic books, video games, and any other digitally formatted media. With the movement of popular entertainment mediums to electronic formats, file sharing has become quite common and widespread. Popular with teens, file sharing often involves copyrighted properties such as music or movie MP3 files and hence, is typically considered illegal.
For Hollywood, the 1950’s presented a plethora of obstacles. A weather-beaten Hollywood had to contend with new competition from the highly successful television market. To counter TV, Hollywood looked for gimmicks to attract moviegoers. Once such device was a newly improved medium – the three dimensional or 3D movie.
The Smurfs, a comic and television franchise, centered on a group of small blue funny talking creatures called Smurfs. Popular in the 1980’s, they appeared on television, t-shirts, miniature models, games, burger boxes, and in toy stores throughout the United States. Many may not know it, but the Smurfs were created over a decade before their surge to success.
The “Macarena” song and dance grew into an incredibly popular fad. The song and subsequently the Macarena dance, spread like wildfire throughout the mid-1990s, before quickly falling out of fashion and vanishing from popular culture. The song and dance remain an often-referenced piece of 1990’s pop-culture, mentioned in TV shows, movies, books, and even by a United States presidential candidate.