Blame our generational proclivity toward televised gazes backward, or simply curse the fact that ours is an area with scant history or identity (save The Mouse), but eventually you'll be better off simply scratching at your legwarmer, snorting a line and totally hating your parents. While Orlando may be blossoming into a utopian condominium tribute to "adult living," its heart will be forever cryogenically frozen in 1985. For many of us more follically interested than fiscally sound, this is the backdrop for our own latter-day Big Chill vampish Duran Duran flourishes replacing Motown in our own overdramatized brushes with baby-making and balding.
When I was growing up a satellite poster-child of '80s divorce Orlando was the mecca of disenfranchised electro teen dreams, at least from my suburban Boca Raton vantage point. I dreamed of pirate getups and teen drinking, Adam AND the Ants, leering enviously at my Orlando-based stepsister's angry, soundtracked life bouncing between teen clubs like Visage and J.J. Whispers in the wee hours of the morning. "Oh, to live and die in Orlando," I would think to myself, wondering what it must be like to actually have fun and have sex when you were just 13.
At 33, I'm living my dream.
I'm happy to say Orlando makes it easy. One needn't step far before being swept up in a quick bout with temporal tourism. In fact, one needn't step at all. Long a staple of Sunday-night, dark-bedroom hangover regret, Real Radio 104.1's "Real Music Weekends" offer a nearly two-day flip through a more innocent (but somehow less innocent) time. With a playlist heavily focused on the wave that was new and a little bit of those tawdry, pomo '90s WTKS-FM drops the incessant chatter of its talky work week to make sure that you remember who you are, er, were. Obscurities of the Altered Images variety mingle carelessly out of context with more FM-friendly fare (see: Duran Duran, Tears for Fears) in a giddy nostalgia cocktail mixer suited perfectly for all of your frosted tips. Everything culminates in the seriously addictive "Sunday Night Vinyl" segment, where DJ Erik Dennison resuscitates the more electro side of '80s pop for your totally serious pleasure.
Further blips and bleeps can be sought out in the frequent local live performances of electronic irony purveyors Casiopeia, one of several winking projects headed up by the creepy/enigmatic Carlos DeSoto. If Casiopeia's Members Only jackets speak volumes about their angle, then their music a nervous instrumental revision of often unhip '80s radio standards like "We Built This City" screams it even louder. Part performance art, part insanity vent, Casiopeia is decidedly Orlando. Like, if Orlando was an adjective.
Although not exclusively '80s (they've already told us so), the Independent Bar (formerly Barbarella, 70 N. Orange Ave., 407-839-0457) remains a fantastic communal sweat lodge for authentic latchkey mullets and more youthful hipster derivatives alike. Giant video screens and the fact that people actually dance make the I-Bar an effective time capsule, in the best possible way. There is no irony there.
But further up the road, on Wednesday nights, Back Booth (37 W. Pine St., 407-999-2570) dips a little more heavily into the snarky bleach with its Footloose '80s dance party … if you like your '80s served up with trucker hats.
Speaking of hair, although the prospect of a recently opened hair salon called the Mullet on Mills Avenue mildly intrigues, the real '80s are alive and well a block over at Shine (1209 Park Lake St., 407-894-5885). Sure, there are your modern hairstyles and modern hairstylists present, but the genius of longtime hairdresser Skotty Pitts comes with leather pants and a blond front. In fact, he just got back from doing Missing Persons chanteuse Dale Bozzio's giant pinkish 'do for her inevitable stint on "Hit Me Baby One More Time." Yes, life IS so strange.
Stranger still are topless '80s interview picture discs. That's right, we're talking Samantha Fox collectibles here, and we're not even ashamed. At Retro Records (59 N. Bumby Ave., 407-898-2484), you can find those and more (including a Thompson Twins picture disc shaped like a baby!) for your desperation collection, along with an endless array of 12-inch mixes, used CDs and Spice Girls dolls (eww, the'90s).
As if that weren't enough, Rock 'n' Roll Heaven (1814 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-1952) offers an even larger array of musty vinyl to keep your '80s buzz going. The Blow Monkeys? Yes. Vanity 6? You got it, you vain blow monkey.
And if Orlando life is the sum of its memorabilia, monkey, you might as well get a T-shirt and a studded belt to complete the package. At Static (240 N. Orlando Ave., 407-478-1083), an amazing roll-call of ironed-on pop culture icons lines the wall, from AC/DC to ZZ Top with a whole lot of The Smiths in between. Sort of like a mall-punk boutique that Molly Ringwald might or might not be the assistant manager of, Static keeps the faded timelessness of Manic Panic securely in check, allowing you the illusion that a safety pin will in fact change the world, and maybe a pair of expensive clunky shoes will help, too.
You don't have to grow up. Orlando won't let you.