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Chasing the Eighties

Posted by Big Boo on October 16th, 2008

Chasing the EightiesI wrote about this book a little while ago when I first found out about it coming out, but now I’m pleased to say I’ve had a chance to read it so thought I would provide a bit more detail and a bit of a review of it, so here goes!

The book details a road trip across America and Canada that took place in 2004.  Realising that his thirtieth birthday was just round the corner the author, Spencer Austin, decided it was time to bring to a close his fascination with the films and TV shows he loved whilst growing up in the 1980s.

Spencer felt the best way to do this was to take a three month tour of the North American continent taking in as many locations and interviewing as many people from the 1980s as he could, and the book is a chronicle of his adventures, which he shared with his friends Tom and Luke.  Tom was an amazing research machine who tracked down many of the people and places the trio wanted to visit (and a few that they didn’t), whilst Luke had a really nice camera and went along mainly for the ride.

Starting off in Toronto the boys first try (and fail) to arrange a meeting with Corey Haim, best known for his role in The Lost Boys.  And after they especially bought him a load of cigarettes too.  Whilst there though they do meet up with George R. Robertson, who played the Chief of Police in Police Academy and Stephanie Kaye, one of the actresses from Degrassi Junior High (a kind of Canadian Grange Hill).

After feeling like they were going to be arrested for being terrorists whilst entering the US, they travel to Cincinnati, and visit a Convent which was used for the filming of Rain Man, and then enter Chicago where many a John Hughes film was set, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club.

One of the most interesting interviews was with Jesse Ventura, ex-wrestler, ex-Governor and now proud owner of a rather strange Captain Jack Sparrow-esque beard.  Jesse Ventura played parts in two great Schwarzenegger classics.  He was Blaine in Predator (the guy with the amazing mini gun) and Captain Freedom in The Running Man, a film which revels in Arnie’s terrible hard man quips.

The journey continues with the guys stuck in a field during a lightning storm whilst visiting some shacks used in Dances With Wolves, and visit a family man who struggles to make ends meet, but just so happens to have a rather cool replica of KITT from Knight Rider locked up in his garage.  The lads even get a chance to have a ride in it, once they’ve stumped up for petrol.

A visit to the owner and trainer of London, the dog from The Littlest Hobo is a rather poignant moment, with the old man clearly being a great animal lover who is sadly beginning to succumb to the ravages of time.  It appears he was also involved in the 1960s version of The Littlest Hobo, and insists on giving a rendition of the theme song from that era, rather than the one we all remember from the 1980s TV series.

Another memorable interview is with Dwight Schultz, Murdoch from The A Team, and a little light is shed on some of the rivalries that occured during the making of that show.  I especially like the way he refers to Mr. T as just ‘T’.  Dwight is currently hosting a radio show about UFOs, conspiracy theories and the unexplained, which sounds just right for Murdoch!

Other memorable visits include the locations for The Goonies, Back To The Future and Dirty Dancing, where Spencer and Tom end up in a sludgy lake trying to recreate a scene from the movie, and failing quite miserably.  The also visit the fire house used as the Ghostbusters HQ in New York, which I particularly like since this is the one place described in the book where I too have personally paid pilgrimage.

There is of course much, much more than this, and I found the book a riveting read.  Throughout there are humorous snippets of e-mail conversations that were used for setting up some of the meetings, and I like the way Spencer sometimes goes off on a tangent in a Homer Simpson like way.  The text suddenly becomes italics and its as if we’ve entered a living memory from the mind of the author.  Many of these concern Spencer getting over his failed relationship with girlfriend Elle.  At the end Mr. Austin has not only bookended is love of the 1980s in a meaningful way, but on a more personal level has finally managed to move on from his lost love once and for all.

I heartily recommend it, and whilst it might not be one to read to the kids at bedtime, its perfect for the trapped Child of the 1980’s in all of us.  If I’ve one criticism it might be that I would have preferred more in depth transcriptions of the various interviews, although in the interest of keeping the book moving along at a fair pace the more abridged versions presented probably do make a lot of sense.  For more information pay a visit to the books website at www.chasingthe80s.co.uk.

Buy Chasing the Eighties at Amazon.co.uk