Madonna tries to leave the 80s behind -- The material girl isn't the only icon trying to move their image into the '90s

By Jeff Gordinier
April 15, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

David Letterman put it nicely as he tried to scoot a cussing Madonna off the Late Show stage: ”She won’t leave!” At least she won’t leave the 1980s. As millions of Americans found out, Madonna is the latest ’80s icon having trouble fitting into the ’90s zeitgeist (see story on page 24). The problem isn’t that she’s obscene-hell, we knew that-but that she’s obsolete. She could take a lesson from other Reagan-era icons who are trying to shake off the decade of Haagen-Dazs and Polo and overhaul their images for a leaner, meaner ’90s, and beyond. A guide:

Bruce Springsteen

’80s apex: 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. Hit singles, stadium shows, muscles, and marriage to a model. End of the era: Putting out two albums simultaneously-1992’s Lucky Town and Human Touch-was the biggest blunder of his career. Sign of the times: The Boss drops the model for the backup singer, has kids, records ”Streets of Philadelphia,” and is received like a saint at the Oscars. What’s needed: An album (a spokeswoman says one is in the works). Will he make it to the millennium? Yes.

Tom Cruise

’80s apex: 1986’s Top Gun, the film that made him the prototype for the cocky Cold War hero. End of the era: Cruise may be the one ’80s icon who’s never faltered because of his ability to choose roles tailor- made for his image. Sign of the times: Interview With the Vampire-in which he plays Lestat-will show whether he can satisfy the ’90s craving for an antihero. Similarly, Cruise has optioned Evan Hunter’s Criminal Conversation, in which he’ll star as a mob boss. What’s needed: To prove he’s more than just the all-American boy. Will he make it to the millennium? Depends on whether Vampire audiences bite.

Sylvester Stallone

’80s apex: 1985, the year of Rambo: First Blood, Part II and Rocky IV. End of the era: The Communist-whipping Rambo and Rocky series petered out, and a string of comedies failed to make anybody laugh. Sign of the times: Sly knows the importance of roots. He came back with the nuts-and- bolts action flicks Cliffhanger and Demolition Man. Up next: The Specialist (in which he plays a bomb expert) and, uh, Rambo IV. What’s needed: More hits. Will he make it to the millennium? Maybe.

Michael Jackson

’80s apex: 1983’s Thriller. The best-selling album ever, it made Michael a megastar. End of the era: Since the late ’80s, the King of Pop has been moonwalking straight to hell. The guideposts: shrinking album sales, a face courtesy of Dr. Frankenstein, and allegations of child abuse. Sign of the times: Aiming for street credibility, Jacko is reportedly laying down tracks for a hits album that will include bonus cuts. What’s needed: Sell the Neverland Ranch, try to grow a beard, and work on a confessional album. Will he make it to the millennium? No.


’80s apex: 1984’s Purple Rain. Lavender jumpsuits, sticky hair, and ”Let’s Go Crazy” struck gold. End of the era: He went too far by changing his name to {Prince}. But the real gaffe was putting out mediocre records (Diamonds & Pearls) and even worse films (Graffiti Bridge). Sign of the times: Trying to diversify: opens Glam Slam, writes a piece for the Joffrey Ballet, is reportedly working on an ambient project. What’s needed: Reunite with Revolution, make Purple Rain 2, and change the name back to Prince Rogers Nelson. Will he make it to the millennium? Definitely, thanks to ”1999.”