Aaliyah: A Visionary Artist Gone Too Soon

Aaliyah was a wildly talented young lady that already had a varied and successful career at the time of her untimely death in a plane crash at age 22. Primarily known as a progressive R & B singer she had just released her third album, all of which went double platinum. Known for her unique style combining sweet and sexy she was about to start a fashion line. She also starred in the movie Romeo Must Die (2000). The Fader talked to a collection of folks close to her, including producer Missy Elliott, for a touching remembrance of a unique soul and talent.

Aaliyah: Angel So Fly

TheFader.com, 8.25.11

Vince Young Upends the USC Dynasty and Becomes a Longhorn Legend

It was the greatest college bowl game ever: Vince Young and the Longhorns going back and forth with the pinnacle of the USC dynasty, led by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. Young’s final streaking run to the house to win it all remains one of the most replayed plays in college football history. CBS goes all out with an engrossing oral history of the 2006 BCS championship.

USC-Texas: An oral history

CBSSports.com, 1.4.16

The Punk Rock Aesthetic of Early Cyberfeminism

Motherboard recounts the activities of a group of early cyberfeminists from Australia in the early 1990s as they elbowed their way into the boy’s club of the early internet. They did ask not permission, they were not demure, and aesthetically there is a correlation to be drawn with the riot grrrl movement in punk rock. Headstrong, intelligent women marching triumphantly into a male space and righteously planting their flag. Although cyberfeminism as a distinct movement faded before the turn of the century, it was an important early force that continues to evolve throughout electronic media. Motherboard‘s piece includes some examples of caustic visual art produced by the group.

An Oral History of the First Cyberfeminists

Motherboard.Vice.com, 12.11.14

Smashing, Baby! An Oral History of “Austin Powers” (1997)

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a loving send-up of the British spy movies of the 60s and 70s that Mike Myers grew up watching. He was at the height of his comedic powers and although the movie made money from almost from the beginning, it wasn’t a smashing success in the theaters. The movie benefited greatly from DVD sales and being shown on heavy rotation on cable TV and by the end of the century its innumerable catch phrases were part of the popular lexicon. The Hollywood Reporter gathers the principals for an insightful and hilarious oral history.

‘Austin Powers’ at 20: Mike Myers, Jay Roach, More Spill Secrets in Shagadelic Oral History

HollywoodReporter.com, 4.27.17

Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints, and the Superdome

The battered Louisiana Superdome became one of the iconic images of Hurricane Katrina, and the dire stories of its time as a “last-ditch” shelter were harrowing. It would close for two years and some wondered whether the Saints would ever return to the decimated city. However, the Saints were part of the fabric of the city like few other institutions, and when they returned it was one of the great moments in American sports history. Sports Illustrated provides an engrossing oral history of a team helping heal its city.

Ten years since Katrina: Oral history of the Saints and their Superdome

SI.com, 8.27.15

“Caddyshack” (1980)

Easily the funniest and most quoted sports movie of all time, Caddyshack was created by the young comedic geniuses of National Lampoon, who had just scored their first hit with Animal House. The film starred two Saturday Night Live stars (Chevy Chase, Bill Murray) as well as antithetical veteran actors Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield. The result was a comedy masterpiece full of memorable scenes and one-liners loosely based around country club shenanigans. Sports Illustrated provides a predictably hilarious retrospective with input from all the major players.

Caddyshack

SI.com, 8.2.10

Texas Heat on TV: “Friday Night Lights”

Friday Night Lights, first a book, then a movie, then a TV series, was on the surface about the communal passion of Texas high school football. A critical darling regardless of media format the television show failed to capture a huge audience partially because lots of people don’t care about high school football. It’s a shame since the core of this story is intense interpersonal relationships, in particular between coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami, played with natural chemistry by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Even though the audience was small, it was passionate. Grantland‘s Robert Mays was one of those fans and he provided a fitting farewell on the eve of the last episode in 2011.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn’t Lose

Grantland.com, 7.28.11

The Birth of Outlaw Country

Up through the 1960s Nashville had a stranglehold on country music and they enforced conformity with a headmaster’s zeal. The musical and cultural revolution finally hit country in the early 70s and it didn’t happen in Nashville, it happened in Austin, Texas. Although this progressive offshoot was eventually subsumed by Nashville labels, the work of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle (among others) never lost its edge or its loving embrace of the outlaw. Texas Monthly provides an in-depth review of the lifecycle of this popular branch of country music.

That 70’s Show

TexasMonthly.com, 1.21.13

The Weeknd Blows Up: “Beauty Behind The Madness”

The Weeknd organically grew his fanbase through mixtapes and YouTube releases, ultimately compiled in the platinum-selling Trilogy (2012). But his major-label debut, Beauty Behind the Madness, turned him into an international superstar with its easy synthesis of soul, rhythm and blues, and rock.  The behind-the-scenes crew included some of Tesfaye’s musical buddies but also experienced L.A. producers Stephen Moccio, Ali Payami, Danny Schofield, and Max Martin. Here is the creation story of the Grammy-nominated album.

The Oral History Of The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness

Grammy.com, 2.8.16

 

An Ode to Streetball: “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992)

Playground basketball is an meritocratic society: If you can play, you’re good. If you can’t play, God help you, because you’re going to hear all about it. Director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) was a lifelong hoopster who understood the inherent kinetic drama of streetball would make for a good movie. The result, White Men Can’t Jump, follows two scuzzy hustlers (Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrellson) as they try to pull off the big heist. Rosie Perez turns in a predictably engaging performance as Woody’s girlfriend. Grantland revisits the funniest basketball movie ever made.

You Either Smoke or You Get Smoked

Grantland.com, 8.21.12

The Shockingly Authentic “My So-Called Life”

My So-Called Life lasted for just one season of 19 episodes, but stands as Generation X’s version of Freaks and Geeks: A beautifully authentic depiction of adolescence created by an unknown but talented cast that would go onto great things. The show introduced the world to the magnetic Claire Danes and Jared Leto, whose awkward courtship formed the emotional crux of the series. Marie Claire provides a touching retrospective of a show that ended too soon.

The Agony and the Angst: An Oral History of ‘My So-Called Life’

MarieClaire.com, 11.17.16

The Turbulent History of the Sports Blog AOL FanHouse

AOL FanHouse was a well-funded sports blog with a stable of talented writers and editors, but its peak in the late 2000’s was brief because of the notorious dysfunction of AOL. The site launched in time for football season in 2006 as the former team-blog-oriented format transitioned to a single global blog format. Despite the awful name the site was an immediate success and within a couple years was a top-5 sports site in terms of traffic. Behind the scenes, however, the rot had begun to take hold. Along with setting ambitious traffic goals AOL management made the mistake of getting involved with content, resulting in “Fantasy Sports Girls,” a hilariously misguided attempt to draw male viewers via boobs. The in-house editorial staff rioted en masse, and a talent exodus that had already started grew into a flood. AOL’s usual mix of staff shakeups and rebrandings had the usual end result: The site was sold for scraps in early 2011 and disappeared shortly after. The Comeback provides an excellent seven-part oral history of the quick rise and fall of one of the first national-scope sports blogs.

The Oral History of AOL FanHouse

TheComeback.com, 2.29.16

Redman and his Staten Island Duplex on MTV’s “Cribs”

MTV’s Cribs was famous for chronicling the outragous material excess of music’s superstars, from Master P’s gold Louisiana mansion to Richard Branson’s private island resort. And then there was the Redman episode. He had bought a rundown duplex on the outskirts of Staten Island as a rehab project but he ended up liking the space and not doing much/any rehab. When MTV called he said come on out. They showed up early one morning, woke his ass up, and he proceeded to give a sleepily hilarious tour of a confirmed bachelor pad, complete with pizza boxes, shoeboxes full of money, and passed-out houseguests. Never change, Redman. Never change.

An Oral History of Redman’s Notorious MTV Cribs Episode

Thrillist.com, 9.10.15

“GoodFellas” (1990): Mobsters Say It’s Like Watching a Home Movie

Martin Scorcese’s GoodFellas is in the Mt. Rushmore of mob movies, along with The Godfather, Casino, The Departed, and others. Based on real-life mobster Henry Hill, the film chronicles the implosion of a mob family in intimate detail. With career-defining performances by Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, alongside acting greats Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino, the movie is an American classic. GQ interviews over 60 members of the cast and crew for a look back on the film’s 20th anniversary.

Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas: A Complete Oral History

GQ.com, 9.20.10

The Abbey: Hollywood’s Raunchy Gay Nightclub Turns 25

The Abbey started in 1991 in West Hollywood as a coffee shop before the coffee shop boom. It quickly became a prime spot for working lunches and meetups, catering to a primarily gay clientele, including rights groups. The shop took it to the next level, however, when it tackled nightlife like a caged hyena: Shirtless bartenders, go-go dancers of both sexes, and legendarily generous cocktails. Owner David Cooley takes credit for creating the appletini, which is apparently to die for. I’m thirsty.

Hollywood’s (Very, Very Wild) “Gay Cheers” Turns 25: An Oral History of The Abbey

HollywoodReporter.com, 6.9.16

 

The 2003 World Series of Poker, Chris Moneymaker, and the Poker Boom

Chris Moneymaker was an amateur poker player who spent $39 to get into the 2003 WSOP and took home $2.5M. ESPN televised the event and was shocked at the ratings. It was the perfect underdog story at the perfect time for a culture getting back into cards. Practically within months poker was everywhere on TV and poker sites like PokerStars.com blew up. Grantland goes back in time to relive Moneymaker’s unbelievable story and the worldwide impact.

When We Held Kings

Grantland.com, 5.22.13

Jazz June: Underrated Kinetic Emo Jams

The Jazz June formed at Kutztown University in the mid-90s and surfed the undercurrent of the emo boom, never quite breaking big despite a loyal following and kinetic songs with complicated structures. In addition to a solid punk-rock upbringing the band consciously tried to expand their horizons by listening to free-form jazz greats like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dave Brubeck. They tried to bring that structural complexity to a punk-rock/emo aesthetic and the result was songs with alot more going on than their contemporaries. Noisey catches up with the boys for retrospective.

The Possibilities Are Endless: An Oral History of the Jazz June

Noisey.Vice.com, 5.14.14

Reality Bites (1994)

Reality Bites, Ben Stiller’s directorial debut, is an engrossing character study of a group of friends in the early 20s as they struggle to find their footing in the adult world. Often called a portrait of Generation X, much to the dismay of the people who made it, the film instead focuses on the fertile ground of early adulthood, a subject examined by literally thousands of movies. Winona Ryder gives a luminous performance alongside a brooding Ethan Hawke, an endearing sarcastic Janeane Garofalo, and the cinematic debut of the goofy Steve Zahn. Uproxx catches up the cast and crew for a 2oth-anniversary retrospective.

20 years later: An oral history of ‘Reality Bites’

Uproxx.com, 2.18.14

The Daytona 500: The Great American Race

Stock car racing had its beginnings on the hard sand of Daytona Beach and it’s a tradition that remains in the area over a century later. The race eventually moved onto the pavement around Daytona Beach before NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., founded Daytona International Speedway with its unheard-of 31-degree banking. In honor of the 50th Daytona 500 Maxim gathers racing’s luminaries to look back on one of country’s biggest sporting events.

Ring of Fire: An Oral History of the Daytona 500

Maxim.com, 10.19.14

The “Playboy” Clubs

The Playboy clubs, first launched in 1960 and peaking with over 1,000,000 members and 25,000 Bunnies, epitomized the mainstream “cool” nightclub of the 1960s. Hugh Hefner was able to leverage the cache from his gentleman’s magazine to the restaurant space, with chic bachelor decor and high-end food. And, of course, there were the Bunnies, one of the pre-eminent American sex symbols of the 20th century. Vanity Fair revisits the wildly successful nightclubs for some behind-the-scenes stories.

A Bunny Thing Happened: An Oral History of the Playboy Clubs

VanityFair.com, 4.22.11

Bonus: Pictorial archive of the Playboy Clubs in the 1960s:

The Golden Age of the Playboy Club

Retrospace.org, 11.13.09