Nostalgia, as we like to say here at It Goes to 11, is a powerful intoxicant, a sensation only amplified by the endlessly indulgent depths of the Internet; and what was cool then… gets only cooler with age (or is it irony?). Along these lines, we present a short Q & A with Steve Spears, founder and editor of Stuck in the ’80s, which ranks among the web’s most trafficked destinations on the topic. Between the witty pop culture insights and the where-are-they-now updates delivered with nary a hint of snark, you’ll find it easy to visit (or revisit) the era of big hair, cocaine, and Ronald Reagan.
IG211: If you would be so kind, can you introduce yourself for our readers?
Steve Spears: Like some lame superhero, I have two roles. By day, I’m the daily entertainment news editor for the St. Petersburg Times, the largest daily newspaper in Florida. And, during bathroom breaks, I’m the creator, writer and co-host of Stuck in the ’80s, a blog and podcast that has been mining the ’80s for tasty nuggets of fun for almost six years now.
IG211: Tell us a little bit about how you got started with Stuck in the ’80s and, by extension, the St. Petersburg Times (or is it vice versa?)? How much of what you write is assigned to you and how much of it is self-initiated or tip-generated?
Steve Spears: I’d been at the Times for about 10 years before I started Stuck in the ’80s. The idea was to create a podcast that didn’t feel like it was actual work. I had two ideas: either a podcast on football refereeing (which I also do in the fall) or one on the ’80s. I think I picked wisely. I’m the Head Geek in Charge, so I decide what gets written or podcasted, though I always honor fan requests.
IG211: Your weekly podcast is rather popular. What’s the secret behind its success?
Steve Spears: The secret is sharing stories about yourself. It shows that we all went through the same old craziness in our youth, though at times I wonder if my co-host Sean and I had more than our share. Without the personal stories, we’d be nowhere…
IG211: I know that you cover lots of cultural events — like, say, the Super Bowl — that aren’t necessarily 80’s-centric. Do you try to give all of your work an ’80s spin or is it applied on a case-by-case basis?
Steve Spears: Almost everything gets a ’80s spin. If we do Super Bowls, we only do those in the ’80s. We do sometimes talk about a musician’s or actor’s work outside the ’80s, but only if they are primarily known as ’80s artists first.
IG211: Do you write most of the content or do you try to solicit material from friends, readers and like-minded fans? Likewise, I know that you like to connect with your readers via Facebook and that you also occasionally organize events, getaways and concerts. How did that start?
Steve Spears: I always love getting guest-written items, especially concert reviews. I wish I could see more ’80s shows, but that’s what our fans are for! God love them, they’re crazier than I am sometimes. Our Facebook presence was/[is] a good way of matching up names and faces.
IG211: Speak a little about the allure of the ’80s nostalgia, which seems deep seated and pervasive in today’s pop culture, especially music, movies and fashion. On a related note, what do you make of recent films like Hot Tub Time Machine that mine the decade for comedic yuks? Or something like say the A-Team reboot (which, to me, seemed almost completely divorced from the ’80s pedigree unto which it was born)?
Steve Spears: The nostalgia for the ’80s may seem like it came out of nowhere, but it really didn’t. Those in charge of TV and movie studios now are basically children of the ’80s. They go with what they know. Sometimes it works great, like The Wedding Singer. Othertimes, it’s a disaster, like the Fame remake. Usually, they fall somewhere in between, like Hot Tub Time Machine, which I really enjoyed. That movie was meant as an introduction to the ’80s for today’s kids, I think, more than a monument to the decade that I knew firsthand.
IG211: On a related note, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to read David Sirota’s new book, Back To Our Future, which riffs on these and many other like-minded subjects?
Steve Spears: I have a copy, but haven’t read it. So many ’80s books out, so little time!
IG211: Do you think your readership is composed of people that came of age during the decade in question or younger, curious fans sifting through the past (for whatever reason)?
Steve Spears: I can say for a fact that it’s mainly those 35-45 years old. Though we do have a lot of teenaged fans too. They probably got introduced to the ’80s by their parents. Better than being subjected to the ’50s, like I was as a kid.
IG211: Any future plans for the blog that you’d like to mention?
Steve Spears: We want to get into video next. Look for some short video features —mainly skit-oriented — in the near future. Plus, we’re planning a big get-together in L.A. for Sept. 2. There’s a huge ’80s concert that day with Human League, B-52s and Berlin. How could I possibly resist???
Our interviewee (right), pictured with his partner in crime, Sean Daly (left), and ’80s hottie, Debbie Gibson (center).
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