If it were a movie pitch, who'd buy it? A has-been film actor becomes President of the United States, and Hollywood takes over the world. Fine, we'll be in touch. But in the '80s and '90s, the Reaganite ethos of capitalist swashbuckling and media-savvy imagemaking seemed to inspire the entertainment industry—and vice versa. Whatever their talents, such figures as Michael Jackson were triumphs of style and marketing.

America Goes Hollywood
Newsweek, June 13-19, 1999

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Corporate showbiz discovered that everything could be marketed: Madonna's sexual transgressiveness, Arnold Schwarzenegger's anomic violence, Jerry Seinfeld's urban neuroses and—the cleverest move of all—edgy alienation from corporate showbiz, personified by attitudinous rappers and such multiplatinum "grunge" rockers as Nirvana.

Madonna: 'Ruthless Edge'
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Body by Arnold
Michael Jackson: The Gloved Wonder
Spike Lee: Spike Does His Thing (related audio)
Julia Roberts: Ms. Roberts Goes to Hollywood
Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic: The Grunge Invasion
Larry David: A Sitcom Even New Yorkers Could Love
E.T.: The Good Alien
'Titanic': Water—Everywhere
Russell Simmons: Into The Mainstream
Artie Shaw: Reaping the Whirlwind

The Grunge Invasion

POETS OF ALIENATION: It was a defining moment when, in 1991, Nirvana's brilliant, corrosive album "Nevermind" knocked Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" out of Billboard's top spot. The band sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, changing the course of rock. Drummer Dave Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic discuss the smash "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the friend they lost in 1994 when Kurt Cobain killed himself.

KRIST: We were sitting in the apartment when we were making the record, and I was talking about an anarchist high school with, like, black flags, and the cheerleaders have anarchy A's on their shirts, and that whole school spirit, pep spirit. But what if it was, like, anarchy, and it was the school that was espousing it at pep rallies, the whole, like, punk-rock ethos. What kind of world would that be? Kurt and Dave or, you know, somebody ran with it.

DAVE: At one point when we were making the video, the director had a loud bullhorn thing, and he was trying to explain the concept to the crowd, and saying, "OK, now, in the first verse, you're supposed to look bored and complacent and unhappy. Just sit in your seats and tap your foot and look, you know, distraught, whatever." And then by the end of the song, they're supposed to be tearing the place to shreds. When they got to the first chorus, the crowd was completely out of control, and the director was screaming at the top of his lungs for everyone to f---ing calm down and be cool, or they'll get kicked out. So, it was pretty hilarious, actually, seeing this man trying to control these children who just wanted to destroy.

KRIST: The Nirvana music really makes me miss Kurt, and, like, I see pictures of him, and just think of the person, you know? Because he's so deified, and that's not the Kurt that I knew. I mean, that's a pop-culture icon. If people need icons, that's fine, and we all have our icons and stuff. I have to remember the person—I want to remember the person. It can be sad sometimes, because I really miss him.

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