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Jewish World Review March 12, 2004 / 19 Adar, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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The '70s — my decade & proud of it | In the dark of the theater, as Starsky drove off with Hutch to the strains of "Love Will Keep Us Together," I found it. Breaker, breaker, good buddy - there it was: my '70s pride.

Much as African-Americans reacted to "Roots," as gays reacted to "La Cage Aux Folles," as tropical fish reacted to "Nemo," so I, too, reacted to this breakthrough work of art. Seeing aviator glasses on someone other than Brad Pitt for the first time in 30 years, I felt a rush of euphoria equal only to the joy of galumphing in my first pair of Earth shoes. Had I been wearing a mood ring, it would have shone bright as K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Say it loud: "I was born just an eensy bit too late to be a hippie, but now I'm proud. Sort of. No, really, I am proud."

Such simple self-acceptance had been a long time coming. Like many Americans who came of age in the Me Decade, I always felt an inferiority complex compared with my immediate elders.

After all, their era gave us the Beatles, Woodstock, the anti-war movement and the Civil Rights Act.

My era gave us hot pants.

Also gaucho pants.

Also pantsuits. One-piece. Zippered. Purple.

So for many years I would pretend I didn't really remember my youth. "Oh, did we have a pet rock? I guess we did."

Guess we did? I loved that pet rock! I was so jealous it was my sister's!

My friend Jim, coaxed into reminiscing, said that his family had a pet rock painted to look like Rhoda Morgenstern. "It had a little bandana around its head." How cool is that?

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"The '70s were really cool," says my sister-in-law Carmela, who is also embracing her late-baby boom roots. "Guys would wear these kind of psychedelic polyester shirts that were a little too tight on them." What's not to like?

She liked guys' hair back then, too: the Afros on men of every race. The ponytails. The shoulder-length shags - all lovingly reproduced in the Starsky and Hutch flick and still lookin' good!

The '70s was an era of great home improvement, too. Think inflatable chairs and digital clocks - the kind where the numbers would flip down. "We used to sit and watch those numbers flip," says Carmela, perhaps a tad too unashamed of how she spent her wonder years.

Despite its rap as an era so unattractive that one of my colleagues has proposed that all photos from that decade be destroyed (especially the ones of his droopy mustache), the '70s was actually a time of great creative expression.

"We used to sign each others' jeans with ballpoint pens," says my friend Nancy Deihl.

Now a textiles historian teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Nancy found herself looking out over her class the other day and marveling, "This looks like my high school yearbook! They all had shag hairdos and hip-huggers, and one of the girls was wearing a shearling coat with the fluff around the sleeves. And the boys - they were wearing shirts with big cuffs. Remember big cuffs?"

I do indeed. And I'm not surprised that they, like Starsky and Hutch themselves, are back. Greatness never dies.

It just sometimes takes awhile to appreciate it.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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