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GUILTY PLEASURE: Dynasty

The 1980s were the “Greed is Good” decade, when big money and the rich people that spent it fabulously were the national obsession. In 1981, when television network ABC gave tv writer/ producers Esther and Richard Shapiro the green light to create a primetime soap opera, the duo wanted to bravely go where soaps had never gone before. What the duo created was DYNASTY, a glitzy (and often campy) hit that would go on to top the ratings for much of its 1981-1989 run. The saga of the Carrington and Colby families, two wealthy, Denver-based oil magnates came to epitomize this over-the-top era. During those nine seasons, not only was the usual betrayal, murder and scheming that soaps are known for front and center. What really set DYNASTY apart from the pack were storylines dealing with themes that included homosexuality, incest and interracial siblings. Not to forget that this was still a soap opera about rich people, all the drama was served up in diamonds, gigantic shoulder pads and lots and lots of sequins! Dynasty demonstrated that no matter how much mud slinging went on in the lives of the rich and unscrupulous, the rich always do it while wearing impeccable fashion. The clothes were so opulent that the show’s costume designer, Nolan Miller, became a household name in his own right. Veteran actor John Forsythe played oilman Blake Carrington and blonde beauty Linda Evans his beloved (and perpetually beleaguered) second wife, Krystle.

 

Though DYNASTY started off as somewhat of an inferior clone to DALLAS (the CBS network’s hit predecessor) what gave this show a major jolt of adrenaline was the second season arrival of Joan Collins, as Blake’s scheming ex-wife Alexis. It is fair to say that Collins, a sultry British brunette once dubbed “the poor man’s Elizabeth Taylor,” at the ripe age of 48, became the prototype of what we now call a “MILF”. Never before had an “older” woman been portrayed as both voraciously sexual AND cunning. Alexis would go on to seduce countless men, marry (a considerably younger) one, engage in countless legendary cat-fights with Krystle and give Blake a serious run for his money in the boardroom by assuming control of rival oil company ColbyCo. Basically, Collins stole the whole damn show!

 

The show’s creators originally planned to push the envelope with the character of Steven Carrington, Blake’s hunky gay son, portrayed first by actor Al Corley and then by Jack Coleman. Corley allegedly departed the series after the second season because he felt he had been promised his character’s homosexuality would be more pivotal to storylines and that the writers ultimately failed to deliver.

The CW Network bravely/foolishly decided to give this show a reboot in 2017 with a new cast of actors taking over the same characters depicted in the original. Try as they might, they won’t be able to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of the times quite like the iconic original.

End of Year, End of Days?

2016 is rapidly coming to a close. Sadly, the tail end of this year has included a variety of calamitous events to an already tragedy laden year. Most notably, the election of Donald Trump, a hateful buffoon now taking office as President of the United States. This year also seems to have been filled with the deaths of many notable people. In the world of the arts, we have seen the loss of a number of icons, many of whom have died tragically much earlier than we could have expected. David Bowie, Prince, George Michael. It was the death of Carrie Fisher, forever Princess Leia, that finally gave me pause. I have longed since reconciled that loss continually occurs all around us, but I have now reached an age where I am experiencing the deaths of the heroes of my childhood and teen years. Each and every one of them, including Donald Trump, was someone I idolized for one reason or another.

In my senior year high school yearbook, I listed as my ambition “To have even more money than Donald Trump”. I now cringe that I could ever have aspired to be in any way similar to the filterless, spray-tanned egomaniac I see before me today. But I entirely understand why I admired him so much at the time. Donald Trump is a teenage boy’s image of a rich man. A man who lives in a skyscraper filled with marble and gold. A man with a beautiful wife (his first of three at the time) who is as much of an ornament as the skyscrapers, golf courses and casinos that bear his name. His swagger, braggadocio, flashiness and camera readiness appeal so much to the teenage boy’s mindset, fueled endlessly by testosterone and fantasy. Only slightly less cartoonish a figure than Jabba the Hutt, with Princess Leia chained to his side. I graduated high school in 1989, the very last year of a decade where money and the individuals who possessed it were as highly exalted in the media as any rock star or actor. Nobody embodied that type of individual more so than Trump. So looking back, I am not at all surprised that this was a man I wanted to emulate.  What surprises me now, nearly 30 years later, is that his image as President of the United States appealed to far more than simply teenage boys.

I am wise enough to know that mud slinging and dirty dealings are what political campaigns routinely run on. But never have I witnessed one so blatantly and viciously using misogyny and xenophobia. Banish all the Muslims, send the Mexicans back across the border where they came from, start building a wall! These were the constant sound bites playing out daily as Trump inched far closer to the White House than I and any of the pundits seemed to think possible.   And yet here we are, at the end of another year and the dawn of a new era. Or, at the very least, what will be four years of an era. No matter how much we want to cling to the images of our childhood heroes, riding in a little red corvette, gallantly fighting Storm Troopers with a light saber or riding high in the sky on a private jet, time brings them all closer to reality. The cracks in their armor finally showing them for the flawed figures they really are and exposing the weaknesses in our own.