I was driving home from work when I saw him. He was driving a vintage brown BMW convertible with the top down, had feathered blond hair, and was wearing a striped navy top with a gleaming white sweater tied around his neck. On his face: Ray-Ban Wayfarers, naturally. I imagined, as he flew by me on a rural road, that his name was Todd or Tad, and that he was off to some yacht club to meet with his girlfriend, Bitsy or Muffy. I also surmised that he was a time traveler or maybe a hallucination, because nothing about his presence made sense.
You have to understand that I live up in the mountains, where everyone drives sensible, snow-hardy cars and wears the kinds of shoes you don’t mind ruining with mud and salt. So I’m not entirely sure where this dude appeared from (aside from my dreams), but he was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, because he looked exactly like a fictional rich person from the 1980s, and fictional 1980s rich people are my favorite.
Is there anything funnier than the rich people from 1980s movies and TV? There is not. They are horrifically tacky and spoiled and love to flaunt their money via extravagant gowns, enormous jewels, and various forms of luxury transportation. The thing that makes ’80s rich people so hilarious is the fact that everything they held up as the pinnacle of style and class is now roughly 30 years old, so their glamorous limousines and evening gowns and helipads have become dated and gloriously campy (and in some cases, campier, as they were already campy to begin with).
Take, for example, the prime-time soap Dynasty, with its marvelous sets and gowns, and two of the queens of the ’80s-rich-people genre, soap-opera division: Joan Collins and Linda Evans, who, as Alexis and Krystle, respectively, had some of the best fights ever:
The drama! THE HAT!!!
Fictional ’80s rich people also had a snob factor that I honestly don’t think has been matched in any decade since. The king is, of course, James Spader in Pretty in Pink, who, for some reason, wears a white suit to school and uses words like “jazzed” and is the best jerk of all time:
A common trope is the fictional ’80s rich person who begins as an insufferable snob but learns a lesson, like Goldie Hawn in Overboard:
Or Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice:
And then there’s the fictional ’80s rich person who embraces who she is and uses what she knows to help others, like Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills:
Growing up in the ’80s, I loved all of these people—or loved to hate them, as they were fantastic villains—and desperately wanted their mink stoles, gold lamé dresses, and giant hats, all of which were out of my reach. I loved how their air of superiority mixed with the absolute nonsense they were typically dealing with, and how absurd their lives seemed to be compared with my own. Even today, I get excited when I see something that screams “1980s rich person” to me: an old brown Mercedes, an emerald ball gown with shoulder pads in the window of a thrift store. I have dreams of waltzing in and buying that gown, throwing it on, and sailing away in my busted-up 1980s yacht, throwing champagne in the face of anyone who dares to tell me I can’t, and then storming away, my white fur coat billowing behind me.
Todd or Tad, if you’re reading this, you are totally invited to come along for the ride. ♦