The 1990s Arts and Entertainment: Headline Makers
The 1990s Arts and Entertainment: Headline MakersKurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain (1967–1994) Kurt Cobain, guitarist and lead singer for the rock band Nirvana, helped change the course of rock-and-roll. He and his bandmates, along with a few other groups, ushered in the era of grunge, a mix of punk and heavy metal that dominated the rock music world for most of the decade. More than anyone, however, Cobain represented his generation's longing. His voice, a painful yell that started somewhere around his stomach, was instantly recognizable as that of frustrated youth. When he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, many thought the grunge era had come to an end.
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Karen Finley (c. 1956–) Karen Finley used her performance art to comment on the abuse and oppression of women, minorities, homosexuals, AIDS victims, and the homeless. She screamed, howled, and ranted her way through confrontational pieces, often appearing nude on stage. In the early 1990s, Finley found herself at the center of a national debate over arts funding by the federal government. When her funding was denied because some members of Congress deemed her work indecent, Finley sued, taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. She eventually lost the case but gained publicity in the process.
John Grisham (1955–) John Grisham, the best-selling author of the 1990s, is considered by some to be the most successful author in the history of the book-publishing business. Trained as a lawyer, Grisham published his first book, A Time to Kill, in 1989. His second work, The Firm (1991), made him an overnight sensation. Grisham then wrote a bestselling legal thriller every year during the decade, capturing the top spot each of the last six years. Many of his works were also made into motion pictures that grossed millions of dollars at the box office.
Jennifer Lopez (1970–) Jennifer Lopez received her big break in 1990 when she won a dance contest to become a Fly Girl on the Fox television comedy series In Living Color. Five years later, she appeared on the big screen in Money Train. In 1997, she made headlines by portraying the role of Tejano singing star Selena. The following year, she earned two million dollars—the highest salary ever paid to a Latina actress—for appearing in Out of Sight. At decade's end, she launched a singing career that matched her success in films.
Laura Schlessinger (1947–) Laura Schlessinger was one of the top radio talk show hosts of the 1990s. For three hours every day, she dispensed advice while pointing out the shortcomings of the people who called in to her radio show. Armed with a doctorate in physiology and a license in marriage and family counseling, Schlessinger offered her opinions on marriage, abortion, relationships, homosexuality, and a host of other topics. Her no-holds-barred approach led many to label her an insensitive imposter, but it also earned her millions of devoted listeners.
Tupac Shakur (1971–1996) Rap musician Tupac Shakur made many people uncomfortable. With his tattoo-splattered physique, piercing deepset eyes, and shaved head, he came across as middle America's worst nightmare—the darkest strain of hip-hop. But to millions of fans, the rap star's troubled life and lyrics offered something meaningful. In a life filled with conflict and violence, Shakur showed a flair for performing. Yet, despite increasing record sales and acclaimed film roles, Shakur could not escape his violent past. Already shot once by unknown rivals, Shakur was eventually killed by two gunmen while stuck in traffic in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Quentin Tarantino (1963–) Quentin Tarantino burst onto the movie scene in 1992 with his shockingly violent, critically acclaimed movie Reservoir Dogs. He not only wrote and directed the film but also acted in a small role. He repeated his feat two years later with his biggest hit film of the decade, Pulp Fiction. Critics championed the movie despite the explicit violence. They noted that, unlike typical action films, Tarantino's movies contain dialogue that takes viewers inside the minds of the characters.
Oprah Winfrey (1954–) Oprah Winfrey revolutionized the television industry as the first African American woman to own her own production company. First broadcast in 1986, her syndicated show reigned the airwaves as the number-one talk show for twelve consecutive seasons, boasting an audience of thirty-three million American viewers every weekday. Her appeal resulted from blending public dialogue and private conversation in such a way that viewers, especially women, felt they were her friends. In 1999, Winfrey's fortune was estimated at $725 million, placing her among America's wealthiest people.