Blank Generation: 1944-53
February 5, 2010
Members of the generational cohort born from 1944-53 were in their teens and 20s during the Sixties (1964-73, not to be confused with the the 1960s), and in their 20s and 30s during the Seventies (1974-83). Though this cohort is easily distinguished from its immediate juniors (whom I’ve dubbed the Original Generation X, born 1954-63), for some reason the influential middlebrow pop demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe lumped the two cohorts together and called them, collectively, Baby Boomers.
Some of our favorite members of the 1944–53 generational cohort: Agnetha Fältskog, Alan Moore, Andy Kaufman, Art Spiegelman, Bill Murray, Brian Eno, Dave Arneson, David Bowie, David Cassidy, David Lynch, Divine, Donovan, Edward P. Jones, Fran Lebowitz, Gary Panter, Geezer Butler, Giant Haystacks, Gil Scott-Heron, Gilda Radner, Grace Jones, Gus Van Sant, Hakim Bey, Iggy Pop, Jack Goldstein, Joey Ramone, John Bonham, John Carpenter, John Waters, Jonathan Richman, Junkyard Dog, Kathy Acker, Kim Deitch, Larry David, Lemmy, Lester Bangs, Lux Interior, Marc Bolan, Mark Mothersbaugh, Martin Amis, Octavia E. Butler, Pam Grier, Paul Reubens, Philippe Petit, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Reverend Billy, Richard Hell, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robyn Hitchcock, Sacheen Littlefeather, Slavoj Žižek, Steve Wozniak, Stiv Bators, Suzi Quatro, Syd Barrett, Todd Rundgren, Tom Verlaine, Wendy Pini, William Gibson, and Yoshikazu Ebisu.
What’s admirable or interesting about most of these members of the 1944–53 cohort stems from their rejection, not only of previous generations’ values, but of their own generation’s traits. Almost all of the truly interesting so-called Boomers, that is to say, are in fact anti-Boomers. Like a race traitor, who supports attitudes or positions thought to be against the interests or well-being of his or her own race, these “generation traitors” rejected Boomer privilege and identity.
I’ve borrowed this cohort’s moniker from the title track of The Voidoids’ 1977 debut album; it perfectly captures the anti-Boomer tendency within the so-called Boomer cohort: the “Blank Generation.” (BTW, “The Blank Generation” is a parody of a 1959 novelty song, “The Beat Generation.”) I realize that Richard Hell was talking about a disaffected subculture, not a demographic; but of course, every so-called generation in my schema is characterized less demographically than culturally.
A reminder of my 250-year generational periodization scheme:
1755-64: [Republican Generation] Perfectibilists
1765-74: [Republican, Compromise Generations] Original Romantics
1775-84: [Compromise Generation] Ironic Idealists
1785-94: [Compromise, Transcendental Generations] Original Prometheans
1795-1804: [Transcendental Generation] Monomaniacs
1805-14: [Transcendental Generation] Autotelics
1815-24: [Transcendental, Gilded Generations] Retrogressivists
1825-33: [Gilded Generation] Post-Romantics
1834-43: [Gilded Generation] Original Decadents
1844-53: [Progressive Generation] New Prometheans
1854-63: [Progressive, Missionary Generations] Plutonians
1864-73: [Missionary Generation] Anarcho-Symbolists
1874-83: [Missionary Generation] Psychonauts
1884-93: [Lost Generation] Modernists
1894-1903: [Lost, Greatest/GI Generations] Hardboileds
1904-13: [Greatest/GI Generation] Partisans
1914-23: [Greatest/GI Generation] New Gods
1924-33: [Silent Generation] Postmodernists
1934-43: [Silent Generation] Anti-Anti-Utopians
1944-53: [Boomers] Blank Generation
1954-63: [Boomers] OGXers
1964-73: [Generation X, Thirteenth Generation] Reconstructionists
1974-82: [Generations X, Y] Revivalists
1983-92: [Millennial Generation] Social Darwikians
1993-2002: [Millennials, Generation Z] TBA
My generational periodization scheme has been known to rub people the wrong way, particularly when it comes to the so-called Boomers. Here’s the argument I’ve heard: “Boomer is a term used to describe someone born during the demographic post-World War II baby boom, which the United States Census Bureau tells us started in 1946 and ended in 1964. Why do you insist that the Boomer generation (a) begins before WWII ended, and (b) ends a decade before the end of the baby boom? The Census Bureau proves you wrong!”
Last point first: The Census Bureau does not involve itself in defining generations. And when it comes to defining generations, I’m hardly alone in balancing demographics with cultural factors. In fact, even Strauss and Howe’s start and end dates for the Blank Generation don’t adhere slavishly to the Census Bureau’s birthrate statistics: they claim the Boomers were born from 1943-60. Generational periodization is as much an art as it is a science. ’Nuff said.
The argument over whether the Blank Generation starts in ’43 or ’44 is tricky. I don’t agree with Strauss and Howe’s start date — which would require us to think of Anti-Anti-Utopian outfits like Monty Python and the Rolling Stones as Blanks. However, in my scheme, years ending in a “3” or “4” are generational cusp years. So a few people born in ’43 — e.g., Chevy Chase, Todd Gitlin, David Geffen — are Blanks; meanwhile, a few born in ’44, — e.g., Angela Davis, Sly Stone, Bill Griffith — are Anti-Antis. To be born in a cusp year means to experience a (productively) divided generational consciousness. (George W.S. Trow, author of Within the Context of No Context, every line of which expresses the author’s sense of having been born too late, was born in ’43. And Bill Griffith’s Zippy strip represents its author as a divided consciousness.) Still, the Blank Generation’s start date is no later than ’44. George Lucas, Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin, Michael Douglas and John Lithgow, and members of second-wave British Invasion bands like Led Zeppelin and Cream were born in ’44 and ’45 — and they’re Blanks, without a doubt.
Fewer and fewer people, these days, agree with either the Census’ end date for the so-called Boomers (’64) or Strauss and Howe’s end date (’60). I first argued that two distinct generations were born during the demographic birth boom of 1946-64 back in ’92, in the pages of Hermenaut. I’d picked up the idea from older cultural commentators — like the zinester Candi Strecker, who’d dubbed those (like herself) born between the mid-’50s and mid-’60s the “Repo Man Generation.” More recently, a marketing consultant named Jonathan Pontell has persuaded middlebrow journalists that a “Generation Jones” was born from 1954-65. And as you’ll recall, during his election campaign, Barack Obama (born 1961) got pundits debating the Blank Generation’s parameters when he insisted that he wasn’t a Boomer. So the Blank Generation ends short of the boom itself; but how short, is the question.
According to my absurdist yet correct periodization scheme, the break between the Blanks and the Original Generation X happened in 1953-’54. This accounts for the heightened generational consciousness and anti-Boomer animus of Kurt Andersen and Alex Beam, to name two cuspers born in ’54. But enough, until the next installment of this series, that is, about the Blanks’ juniors.
Pundits — beginning with Christopher Lasch — have described the so-called Boomers as a “narcissistic” generation, but that’s too pejorative. I’d suggest that the most striking feature of this generational cohort is its imaginative suggestibility. I borrow the phrase from psychologists who study “responsivity to suggestion without hypnosis,” which is to say one’s capacity for self-hypnotizing. Imaginative suggestibility arises out of a particular constellation of psychological traits: absorption (the ability to immerse oneself whole-heartedly, and without irony, in whatever it is that one is into, at that moment, only to drop it one day and quickly get absorbed in something else), fantasy-proneness (a marked tendency to frame one’s own life in a mythical register), hysteria-proneness (a tendency towards emotional excess), and empathy (the capacity not merely to understand the pain of others, but feel it). Doesn’t that sound like the Blanks?
Suggestibility isn’t necessarily a good thing: for example, Thomas Frank’s 1997 book, The Conquest of Cool, persuasively argues that even the Blanks’ counterculturalism was inflicted on them by the dominant culture. However, were it not for their suggestibility, the Blanks might not have followed the lead of Anti-Anti-Utopian elders like Gloria Steinem, Abbie Hoffman, Eldridge Cleaver, Ken Kesey, Michael O’Donoghue, Woody Allen, Elvis, Tina Turner, George Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground — thanks to whom, if you ask me, the Blanks’ influence was, briefly, world-historical.
- the anti-war movement
- social experimentation
- sexual freedom
- drug experimentation
- civil rights movement
- environmental movement
- women’s movement
- anti-nukes movement
- advocacy of world peace
- hostility to the authority of government and big business
- self-awareness/Me Decade
- The Moon Landing
- blockbusters: Jaws, E.T., Rocky series, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars series, Raiders of the Lost Ark series, Back to the Future series, Jurassic Park series, Ghost Busters series
- most movies about coming of age in the Fifties (1954-63): Animal House, American Graffiti, Grease, Forrest Gump, The Buddy Holly Story, Cry-Baby, Dead Poets Society, Diner, Hoosiers, The Lords of Flatbush, Stand By Me, the Porky’s series, even Superman
- most, but not all, movies about coming of age in the Sixties (1954-63): Apollo 13, The Doors, Good Morning, Vietnam, Hairspray, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Losin’ It, That Thing You Do!. Perhaps not The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, The Wanderers, or The Warriors; or Apocalypse Now — one tends to associate these movies with writers and directors from previous generations.
The Blanks’ fantasy-proneness explains why they found comic books so engrossing, during their early formative years. As adults, they continued to see themselves as superheroes. The first major superhero feature film was Superman (1978), starring Christopher Reeve (a Blank); and subsequent comics-inspired movies were also Blanks-oriented: from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) to Dick Tracy (1990), Batman Returns (1992), and Batman Forever (1995). Jay Cantor’s 1994 novel, Great Neck, perceptively explores the Blanks’ generational proclivity for self-mythologization in a superheroic register.
- protests and riots
- Woodstock and Altamont
- Bill Clinton
As for the punks, nobrow comics, glam rockers, metalheads, and refuseniks mentioned at the beginning of this post, what makes them so admirable is their unsuggestibility. Blanks like Alan Moore, Andy Kaufman, David Lynch, Geezer Butler, John Carpenter, John Waters, Kathy Acker, Lester Bangs, Octavia Butler, Reverend Billy, Richard Hell, and Slavoj Zizek made it their life’s mission to warn the rest of us about drinking the Kool-Aid.
Meet the Blanks.
HONORARY BLANKS (BORN 1943): Chevy Chase (comic, SNL), Todd Gitlin (activist), Don Novello (comic, SNL), Michael Ondaatje (author), Harry Shearer (comic, actor, The Simpsons), Sam Shepard (playwright, actor), John Kerry (antiwar activist, politician), George W.S. Trow (author, social critic), David Denby (middlebrow film critic), Bob Woodward (journalist, Watergate), Linda Wertheimer (middlebrow NPR host), David Geffen (middlebrow tycoon), R. Crumb, George Harrison, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, and H. Rap Brown. Would perhaps also like to add Garrison Keillor (middlebrow NPR host) and film producer Peter Guber, both 1942. On the fence about Martin Scorsese and Michael Eisner (also ’42).
1944: George Lucas (middlebrow director), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Kim Deitch (cartoonist, RAW), Erno Rubik (inventor), Ben Stein (middlebrow game show host, pundit), Lorne Michaels (SNL producer), Richard Ford (novelist), Gary Glitter (musician), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Harold Ramis (writer-director, Caddyshack), Ray Davies (The Kinks), Jeff Beck (rock guitarist), Carl Bernstein (journalist, Watergate; married to middlebrow Nora Ephron), Diana Ross (singer), Rudy Giuliani (politician), Pattie Boyd (model, married George Harrison and Eric Clapton), Terry Brooks (fantasy author), James Carville (political strategist), Joe Cocker (singer/songwriter), Danny DeVito (actor, The Penguin in Batman Returns), Michael Douglas (middlebrow actor), Sam Elliott (actor), John Entwhistle (The Who), Joe Eszterhas (director), Bobbie Gentry (singer), Lauren Hutton (model), Mick Jones (Foreigner), John Milius (director), Frank Oz (middlebrow puppeteer), Robbie Robertson (The Band), Jeffrey Tambor (actor), Peter Tosh (musician), Alice Walker (middlebrow author), Peter Weir (director), Bobby Womack (singer), Barry White (singer), Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic), Nina Totenberg (middlebrow NPR host). HONORARY ANTI-ANTI-UTOPIANS: Angela Davis (activist, scholar), Sly Stone (musician), Martin Jay (intellectual historian), Bill Griffith (cartoonist, Zippy the Pinhead, RAW), Jonathan Demme (director), Patti LaBelle (soul singer-songwriter), Bill Ayers (Weather Underground), maybe Rem Koolhaas (architect).
1945: Steve Martin (comic, actor), Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson, author, TAZ), Divine (actor), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (director), Debbie Harry (Blondie), Jack Goldstein, Susan Jacoby (author), Justin Green (cartoonist, RAW), Lemmy (Motorhead), Pete Townshend (The Who), Jerry Bruckheimer (middlebrow TV and film producer), Eric Clapton (rock guitarist), Pat Conroy (middlebrow author), Wim Wenders (director), Peter Criss (KISS), Stanley Crouch (jazz critic), Terence Davies (director), Bernadette Mayer (poet), Jim Davis (middlebrow cartoonist, Garfield), Annie Dillard (author, lyricist of the quotidian), Barry Lopez (author, lyricist of the quotidian), Mickey Dolenz (Monkees), Davy Jones (Monkees), Mia Farrow (actor), Bryan Ferry (musician), Thomas King Forcade (founded High Times), Goldie Hawn (actor), Douglas Hofstadter (author), Gabe Kaplan (comic), Tracy Kidder (journalist), Dean R. Koontz (horror author), David Milch (TV producer), Arthur Lee (Love), John Lithgow (actor), Kurt Loder (MTV journalist), Anni-Frid Lyngstad (ABBA), Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA), Milo Manara (erotic comic book artist), Bob Marley (musician), Don McLean (singer-songwriter), John McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Bette Midler (singer), George Miller (director, Mad Max), Van Morrison (musician), Question Mark (? and the Mysterians), Charlotte Rampling (actor), Tom Selleck (actor), Carly Simon (singer-songwriter), Rod Stewart (singer), Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills, and Nash), Henry Winkler (middlebrow actor), Neil Young (musician), Adrienne Barbeau (actor, Swamp Thing, voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series and subsequent Batman cartoon series).
1946: John Waters (nobrow-turned-quatsch director), Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), Donovan (musician), Sacheen Littlefeather (activist), André the Giant (wrestler, actor), Lux Interior (The Cramps), Giant Haystacks, Jann Wenner (founder, Rolling Stone), Joanna Lumley (actor, Absolutely Fabulous), David Lynch (director), Robert Mapplethorpe (photographer), Malcolm McLaren (music impresario), Freddie Mercury (Queen), Gram Parsons (Flying Burrito Brothers), Gilda Radner (comic, SNL), Peter Singer (philosopher), George W. Bush (US president), Steven Spielberg (middlebrow director), Julian Barnes (author), Patti Smith (singer), Bill Clinton (US president), Craig Venter (scientist, genome sequencing), Duane Allman (Allman Brothers), Benny Andersson (ABBA), Robert Asprin (SF/Fantasy author), Candice Bergen (actor, Murphy Brown), Jimmy Buffett (middlebrow musician), Richard Carpenter (The Carpenters), Cher (singer, middlebrow actor), Deepak Chopra (middlebrow guru), Andrei Codrescu (middlebrow author, radio personality), Tim Curry (actor, musician, Rocky Horror Picture Show), Joe Dante (director), Ruth Underwood (musician), Patty Duke (actor), Marianne Faithfull (musician), Sally Field (middlebrow actor), Bill Forsyth (director), Barry Gibb (Bee Gees), Barry Gifford (author), Danny Glover (actor), Lesley Gore (singer), Al Green (singer), Gregory Hines (dancer), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Tommy Lee Jones (actor), Diane Keaton (actor), Roy Loney (musician), Joe Klein (journalist), Robby Krieger (The Doors), Peggy Lipton (actor), Susan Lucci (actor), Terence McKenna (far-out author), Liza Minnelli (singer), Keith Moon (The Who), Michael Ovitz (middlebrow CEO, Disney), Dolly Parton (musician), Philip Pullman (author), Pat Sajak (game show host), Paul Schrader (director), Sylvester Stallone (action-movie actor), Oliver Stone (director), Donald Trump (businessman, TV personality), Robert Urich (actor), Peter Wolf (J Geils Band), Linda Ronstadt (singer).
1947: Kathy Acker (author), Iggy Pop (musician), Paul Auster (author), Marc Bolan (T-Rex), David Bowie (musician), Octavia E. Butler (SF author), Yoshikazu Ebisu (cartoonist), Dave Arneson, Larry David (TV producer, actor, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm), Cal Schenkel (artist), David Letterman (nobrow talk show host), Martha Nussbaum (philosopher), Camille Paglia (critic), Gregg Allman (Allman Brothers), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Andrew Bacevich (middlebrow historian), John Perry Barlow (EFF cofounder, Grateful Dead lyricist), Dave Barry (middlebrow columnist), Ronny Elliott (musician), Ann Bettie (middlebrow author), Hillary Clinton (politician), Albert Brooks (actor), Tom Clancy (thriller author), Glenn Close (actor, The Big Chill), Paulo Coelho (author), Billy Crystal (middlebrow comic), Jane Curtin (actor, SNL), Ted Danson (middlebrow actor), Stephen R. Donaldson (SF/Fantasy author), Richard Dreyfuss (middlebrow actor), Bob Edwards (middlebrow NPR host), Farrah Fawcett (actor), Teri Garr (actor), Arlo Guthrie (singer/songwriter), Mark Helprin (author), Don Henley (middlebrow musician, The Eagles), Michael Ignatieff (author, politician), Elton John (middlebrow musician), Lynn Johnston (middlebrow cartoonist, For Better or Worse), Stephen King (middlebrow horror novelist), Kevin Kline (actor, The Big Chill), Richard Lewis (comic), David Mamet (author), Joe Mantegna (actor), Brian May (Queen), Michael McKean (actor, musician, Spinal Tap), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Jonathan Pryce (actor), Rob Reiner (middlebrow actor, director, producer), Peter Riegert (actor), Marilynne Robinson (novelist), Salman Rushdie (novelist), Carlos Santana (Santana), John Ralston Saul (essayist), Laura Schlessinger (middlebrow radio personality), Arnold Schwarzenegger (action-movie actor, Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin, Conan; politician), Robert Siegel (middlebrow NPR host), Jimmie Walker (comic), Joe Walsh (middlebrow musician, Eagles), Peter Weller (actor), Ron Wood (Rolling Stones), James Woods (actor), Warren Zevon (musician), Jon Landau (middlebrow music critic, producer), Dan Quayle (politician), Mitt Romney (politician), Don Felder (middlebrow musican, The Eagles). Also: middlebrow generational periodizer William Strauss.
1948: Brian Eno (music producer, Here Come the Warm Jets), Lester Bangs (critic, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), John Woo (director), John Carpenter (director, They Live), Grace Jones, Gerald Casale (Devo), Todd Rundgren (musician), Nick Drake (singer/songwriter), Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), William Gibson (SF novelist), Al Gore (Vice President), Christopher Guest (actor, Spinal Tap), Phil Hartman (comic), S.E. Hinton (YA novelist), Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Ricky Jay (magician), Ray Kurzweil (inventor), Errol Morris (documentary filmmaker), Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Art Spiegelman (cartoonist, editor of RAW), Lewis Black (comic), Glenn Frey (middlebrow musician, Eagles), Lynn Abbey (Fantasy author), Allan Arkush (director, Rock’n’Roll High School), Ron Asheton (The Stooges), Wolf Blitzer (TV journalist), T.C. Boyle (author), Jackson Browne (middlebrow singer/songwriter), Jimmy Cliff (musician), Alice Cooper (musician), Bud Cort (actor, Harold and Maude), Gerard Depardieu (actor), James Ellroy (crime novelist), Glenn Frey (middlebrow musican, The Eagles), Squeaky Fromme (assassin), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Jeremy Irons (actor), Samuel L. Jackson (actor), Rick James (musician), Bernard-Henri Lévy (author, philosopher), Andrew Lloyd Webber (middlebrow composer), Janet Maslin (middlebrow film critic, dated middlebrows Steven Spielberg and Jon Landau), Ian McEwan (novelist), Jerry Mathers (Beaver in Leave it to Beaver), Michael Medved (traditional values pundit, film critic), Olivia Newton John (singer, actor), Stevie Nicks (singer/songwriter, Fleetwood Mac), Ted Nugent (musician), Bernadette Peters (actor), Kate Pierson (musician, B-52s), Faith Popcorn (trend-spotter), Terry Pratchett (SF novelist), Phylicia Rashad (actor, The Cosby Show), Ruth Reichl (food critic), John Ritter (actor, Three’s Company), Rudolph Schenker (The Scorpions), Cat Stevens (singer/songwriter), Donna Summer (singer), James Taylor (middlebrow singer-songwriter), Eckhart Tolle (middlebrow guru), Garry Trudeau (cartoonist), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Ronnie Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Steve Winwood (musician).
1949: Andy Kaufman (comic, prankster), Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Gil Scott-Heron“>Gil Scott-Heron (poet, hip hop influence), Martin Amis (novelist), Pam Grier (actor), Richard Hell (musician, Voidoids), Paul Berman (intellectual), Slavoj Žižek (intellectual), Tom Herman (Pere Ubu), Denis Johnson (novelist), Stiv Bators (Dead Boys), Fred “Sonic” Smith (musician), Philippe Petit (funambulist), Bruce Springsteen (middlebrow rock star), John Belushi (actor, comic, SNL), Graydon Carter (editor, Vanity Fair), Elvira (actor), Christopher Hitchens (journalist), James Atlas (author), Garry Shandling (comic), Tom Verlaine (punk, Television), Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics), Terry Zwigoff (director, Ghost World), Neal Conan (middlebrow NPR host), Ed Begley Jr. (actor), Jeff Bridges (actor), Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), Shelley Duvall (actor), James Fallows (journalist), Richard Gere (actor), Tom Berenger (actor, The Big Chill), Robin Gibb (Bee Gees), Russell Hitchcock (Air Supply), Billy Joel (middlebrow musician), Don Johnson (actor), Lawrence Kasdan (director, The Big Chill), Jamaica Kincaid (novelist), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Jessica Lange (actor), Jerry Lawler (wrestler), Annie Leibovitz (photographer), Shelley Long (actor), Will Allen (activist), Nick Lowe (musician), John Madden (middlebrow director, Shakespeare in Love), Haruki Murakami (novelist), Bill O’Reilly (talk show host), Ric Ocasek (The Cars), Robert Palmer (singer), Steve Perry (Journey), Daniel Pipes (neocon), Bonnie Raitt (musician), Michael Richards (Kramer, on Seinfeld), Lionel Richie (singer-songwriter), Louis Rossetto (Wired co-founder), Gene Simmons (KISS), Jane Smiley (novelist), Sissy Spacek (actor), Rick Springfield (musician), Meryl Streep (talented middlebrow actor), Dave Thomas (comic), Scott Turow (middlebrow thriller author), Tom Waits (nobrow musician), Sigourney Weaver (actor), Anna Wintour (editor, Vogue), Pedro Almodovar (director)
1950: Gary Panter (illustrator, designer, cartoonist, Jimbo, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), Mark Beyer (cartoonist, RAW), Fran Lebowitz (social satirist), Alex Chilton (Big Star), David Cassidy (singer), Edward P. Jones (author), Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV), Bill Murray (actor, comic, SNL), Suzi Quatro (musician), David Johansen (New York Dolls), Tony Wilson (Factory Records), Steve Wozniak (cofounder, Apple), Agnetha Faltskog (musician, ABBA), William Hurt (actor, The Big Chill), Richard Dean Anderson (actor, MacGyver), Martin Short (SNL), Joan Armatrading (singer/songwriter), Walter Becker (Steely Dan), Richard Branson (businessman), Gabriel Byrne (actor), Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters), Jim Carroll (author), Carolyn Forché (poet), Peter Gabriel (musician, Genesis), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (scholar), Lani Guinier (scholar), Cathy Guisewite (middlebrow cartoonist, Cathy), Arianna Huffington (columnist), John Hughes (director), Neil Jordan (director), Jeffrey Katzenberg (middlebrow tycoon, Disney, Dreamworks SKG), John Landis (nobrow director, Animal House), Jerry Zucker (nobrow director, Airplane!), Gary Larson (cartoonist, The Far Side), Jay Leno (TV host), William H. Macy (actor), Leonard Maltin (film critic), Ron Perlman (actor, Hellboy), Tom Petty (musician), Joe Queenan (author), James Redfield (novelist, The Celestine Prophecy), John Sayles (director), Cybill Shepherd (director), Billy Squier (musician), Sean Wilentz (historian), Stevie Wonder (musician).
1951: Joey Ramone (The Ramones), Jonathan Richman (The Modern Lovers), Zhang Yimou (director), Terry Gross (middlebrow NPR host), Sue Coe (illustrator, Raw), Johnny Ramone (The Ramones), Ben Katchor (cartoonist, RAW), Karen Allen (actress, Animal House, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Morris Albert (middlebrow soft-rock singer/songwriter, “Feelings”), Fred Schneider (B-52s), Rush Limbaugh (pundit), Pedro Almodóvar (director), Pierce Brosnan (actor), Orson Scott Card (SF novelist), Lynda Carter (actor, Wonder Woman), Cicciolina (Italian pornstar and politician), Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s), Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s), Bootsy Collins (P-Funk), Phil Collins (middlebrow rock/pop star), Chris Cooper (actor), Christopher Cross (middlebrow singer, “Sailing”), Beverly D’Angelo (actor), Tony Danza (actor), Brad Delp (Boston), Abel Ferrara (director), Lou Ferrigno (actor, The Incredible Hulk), Ace Frehley (KISS), Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Mark Hamill (actor, Star Wars), Oscar Hijuelos (author, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love), Tommy Hilfiger (fashion designer), Li Hongzhi (founder, Falun Gong), Anjelica Huston (actor), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Dean Kamen (inventor, Segway), William Katt (actor, Greatest American Hero), Michael Keaton (actor, Batman), Michael Kinsley (pundit, founding editor of Slate), Rush Limbaugh (pundit), Merrill Markoe (comic), Terry McMillan (middlebrow author), John Cougar Mellencamp (singer/songwriter), Suze Orman (middlebrow self-help author), Kurt Russell (actor), Julian Schnabel (director), Steven Seagal (action movie actor), Sting (middlebrow rock star, The Police), Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. (New York Times publisher), Treat Williams (middlebrow actor), Sven Birkerts (middlebrow intellectual), Brian Grazer (middlebrow film/TV producer), Robin Williams (nobrow-middlebrow comic, actor).
1952: Paul Reubens (actor, Pee-wee Herman), David Byrne (Talking Heads), Douglas Adams (SF novelist, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Reverend Billy (activist, church of Stop Shopping), Junkyard Dog (wrestler), John Lurie (nobrow musician, actor), Vito Acconci (artist), Gus Van Sant (director), Jim Woodring (cartoonist), Robert Zemeckis (film director, producer, screenwriter), Dan Aykroyd (actor, comic, SNL), Clive Barker (thriller author), Jeff Goldblum (actor, The Big Chill), Christopher Reeve (actor, Superman), Patrick Swayze (action-movie actor), Roseanne Barr (actor), Roberto Benigni (actor), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Michael Cunningham (author), Rita Dove (poet), Maureen Dowd (middlebrow New York Times columnist), Francis Fukuyama (neocon pundit), John Goodman (actor), David Hasselhoff (actor), bell hooks (scholar), Sammo Hung (actor), Bill Kristol (conservative editor, pundit), Louis Menand (critic), Liam Neeson (actor), Laraine Newman (comic, Saturday Night Live), Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones), Tommy Ramone (The Ramones), Kim Stanley Robinson (SF novelist), Isabella Rossellini (actor), Mickey Rourke (actor), Paul Stanley (KISS), Joe Strummer (The Clash), Mr. T (actor), Amy Tan (middlebrow author), Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls), Harvey Weinstein (middlebrow movie producer), Leon Wieseltier (critic), Mark Sandman (musician).
1953: Alan Moore (writer, The Watchmen), Mary Harron (director), John Malkovich (actor), Cornel West (scholar), Robyn Hitchcock, Sam Kinison (comic), Pat Benatar (musician), Tina Brown (middlebrow magazine editor, Vanity Fair and New Yorker), Malcolm Young (AC/DC), Tim Allen (middlebrow actor, Home Improvement), Kim Basinger (actor, Batman), Tony Blair (UK prime minister), Michael Bolton (middlebrow singer-songwriter), Michael Chertoff (US Homeland Security Czar), Eve Ensler (playwright), Thomas Friedman (middlebrow New York Times columnist), Carl Hiaasen (author), Ron Jeremy (porn star), Paul Krugman (New York Times columnist), Geddy Lee (Rush), Rick Moranis (actor), Mary Gross (SNL), Howard Schultz (founded Starbucks), Anne Fadiman (writer), Jeffrey Skilling (Enron), Jerry Stahl (screenwriter). HONORARY OGXers: Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Jim Jarmusch (director), Mark Pauline (Survival Research Labs), John Zorn (avant-garde composer), Cyndi Lauper (pop star), David Thomas (Pere Ubu), Midge Ure (Ultravox).
HONORARY BLANKS (BORN 1954): Ron Howard (Happy Days actor, middlebrow film director), Oprah Winfrey (middlebrow TV host), Bob Weinstein, (middlebrow film producer), James Cameron (middlebrow SF director, Avatar, Titanic), John Travolta (actor), Louise Erdrich (middlebrow novelist), Anne Lamott (middlebrow author, Operating Instructions), Jim Belushi (middlebrow actor), Stevie Ray Vaughn (musician), Rick Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life).
READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE
Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).