The Best Of The ’80s

It’s a good thing I stocked up on toilet paper and cat food two weeks ago. Otherwise I would have had to go to the Kmart in Simi Valley, only a couple miles from the Reagan Library, where tens of thousands of potbellied people in American-flag T-shirts were lined up like lemmings to pay their respects to the former GE pitchman.

Perhaps we went a wee bit overboard in deifying the 40th president, but let’s face it, the guy was the best marketer the world has ever seen. And he did, you know, whack communism.

Even though much of the talk was about Iran-Contra and Nancy’s astrologist, you couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the ’80s in general. Yuppies (the boomer version of the Dark Side of the Force), Madonna, Rambo, cassette tapes, Day-Glo fashions, and an Imperial presidency that would have shamed Marie Antoinette.

Truly, a ridiculous decade. Colorful as hell, though. What I miss most is the thing that really defined that time, its absolute essence, pound for pound probably the most marvelous pop-culture gimmick I’ve ever seen:

I miss greed.

Talk about an adaptive communications approach. Circa 1984, there wasn’t a thing advertisers couldn’t sell with greed. You could celebrate (acquire!), simplify (aspire!) or emotionalize (desire!) this most basic of human natures.

We all wanted to be Masters of the Universe. We wanted to be like Mike. Milken, that is, before he got thrown in jail.

Sure, Michael Douglas got his and Charlie Sheen got out in Wall Street. But what did the movie tell us over and over again about greed? That it was good, of course.

These days, we’ve got Enron traders ripping off California grandmothers, we’ve got Martha headed for lock-up, we’ve got zero tolerance for conspicuous acquisition anywhere in the country, except in Halliburton’s corporate headquarters.

Look at what advertisers use to persuade us in the ’00s. Nerds with cellphones. Heroic soldiers. Lonely lamps.

And where is Charlie Sheen now? He’s a playboy with a heart of gold, bonding with his adorable nephew on national television. (And in real life, he’s happily married with a newborn.)

No wonder nobody knows how to sell anything anymore. What we really need to see are good old-fashioned appeals to materialism.

You know what I’m thinking? Sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because the more I write this, the more I realize that nymphets don’t move me anywhere near as much as greed does. Granted, some of that is age and the fact that my doctor won’t prescribe Cialis. But not all of it.

So here’s a retro idea: Bring back greed.

Don’t make wise-investing-advice commercials. Make ads that scream, “Make more money than a third-world nation!”

Don’t go all viral sponsoring rock concerts. Sponsor hostile-takeover seminars.

Who cares about identity theft? Let’s see ads that show us how to max out our credit cards with flair and imagination.

Don’t talk about incentives in car ads. Revel in how spending money on an ostentatious, fully loaded, Sprewelled autmobile pisses off your Prius-driving neighbor.

As for me, now that the world has left Simi Valley, I’m going back to Kmart and spending all my rent money on Reagan memorablilia and Wang Chung CDs.