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Five Icons Every Person Under Thirty Needs to Know

Updated on October 23, 2012
A Caricature of Charlie Chaplin
A Caricature of Charlie Chaplin | Source

Who don't you know on this list?

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Who wants to be forgotten?

There are times I’m just struck apoplectic over basic ignorance.

I have a really close friend who’s in his late twenties. I will not say he is stupid – far from it. What I will say is that he seems to be a good representation of adults his age. He is hard working, ambitious, and has more initiative than I had at his age. But there are definite gaps in his knowledge base. These gaps are not in the sciences nor are they in any pertinent field of basic education.

They are gaps in pop culture.

I’m at a weird age. I’m not old, yet the vitality of youth has become a not too distant memory. I still have my hair but it’s spun steel now. After seventeen years of marriage, the urge to go out and socialize is something I have to be prodded into now. I spent my childhood in the seventies, came of age in the eighties, learned about responsibility and much of life in the nineties, and now I’ve been left to deal with what’s been going on with this new generation in this new century.

It’s funny, I see the new faces in the movies as the new generation of show business icon and they hit me with no impact. But the freaky thing is that the new generation has no knowledge of things that happened before they were born. I remember seeing movies with John Wayne, Richard Burton, Tony Curtis, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Lemmon, and a plethora of actors that have become worm food but still linger in old black and white films. Many of these actors had passed away before I was born.

Yet… Yet, I still knew who they were and the body of work they created.

I know that Jay Leno will go out into the street and ask basic questions to some of the younger generations and they won’t know the answer at all. They are facts that, granted, are on their way to be deprecated but if you had an active mind you could figure them out. For example, Leno had asked a young girl what a “C-Note” was. To people my age, we know it’s a hundred dollars. C is the Roman numeral for one hundred and a note is a piece of paper. If you led the question with, “If I were to pay you a C-Note, would you accept it?”

I’ll give the younger generation a pass on that one.

What I can’t understand are the ones that can’t identify John Wayne or Albert Einstein on sight. Okay, John Wayne doesn’t get the same amount of play that he used to get ten or twenty years ago. However, there have been enough caricatures made of the man to be known well enough. And it’s a crime that “The Quiet Man” is no longer shown on Saint Patrick’s Day.

But Einstein? Surely, we should all know that E=MC2? Shouldn’t we?

I’m going to speak briefly about five pop icons that in some respect either have a living memorial made to them or are still around and their cameos are part of a larger joke.

This is for all you kids under thirty.

Peter Lorre in Casablanca
Peter Lorre in Casablanca | Source

Peter Lorre

If you don’t know who Peter Lorre is, he’s probably best known for anyone who has to make a caricature imitation of Igor, the mad scientist’s assistant. He was a short, creepy, looking man who had very large soulful eyes. For those of you who are true movie aficionados, he played Ugarte in Casablanca and Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon.

Perhaps one of the most underrated actors of all time. One of his first roles was of a psychotic child killer in Fritz Lang’s M. He was such a good actor that he’d already had a modicum of success with American audiences before he could speak English – he used to parrot his lines and work only knowing the sound and meaning of what he was saying.

Aside from his unique features, it was his voice that was his trademark. His voice still used today to imitate characters like the cereal cartoon Booberry and Ren Hoek in Ren and Stimpy.

Paul Simon
Paul Simon | Source

Paul Simon

Yes, I was shocked, too.

It is a sad reflection of our latest generation to not know the music of Paul Simon – let alone not recognize the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Were it not for the fact that I’d overheard no less than six instances of an older person telling a twenty-something year old who Paul Simon was, I would not have felt a need to mention it now.

In essence, he’s a musical genius. His work spans the late sixties to the present day. But you should know that he peaked in the 70’s and 80’s. He originally was part of a two man group, the aforementioned Simon and Garfunkel, and then became incredibly successful as a solo artist. If you’ve ever heard the song, Bridge Over Troubled Water, on the radio, you’ve heard the original. No one has had the cojones to remake that song.

One of my favorites is his Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover – a song that belongs in the seventies when extramarital affairs were gaining popularity and it’s rhythm, lyrics, and music were representative of its time.

John Wayne aka "The Duke"
John Wayne aka "The Duke" | Source

John Wayne

I know I’m repeating myself. I just think it’s inconceivable that this truly iconic figure has been forgotten by this generation.

Before there was Clint Eastwood, there was John Wayne. John Wayne was the original tough guy and star to many of the films made by the legendary John Ford including The Quiet Man and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

I know I sound like an old fossil. However, John Wayne (born Marion Robert Morrison) was an enduring American icon and academy award winner. Those of you who have seen the Jeff Bridges version of True Grit should know that it is a remake of the John Wayne version where he made US Marshall Rooster Cogburn immortal.

When you think of a stereotypical cowboy, you/d probably picture him.

John McEnroe
John McEnroe | Source

John McEnroe

Here’s the irony about John McEnroe – he was a champion tennis player who was phenomenal on the court, but nowadays he known for his ballistic tantrums and emotional instabilities.

I say this because I think lately he’s doing a parody of himself.

For those of you who have become fans of many of the Adam Sandler films, John McEnroe usually makes an appearance in them. His notable guest shots have been in Anger Management, Don’t Mess With The Zohan and Mr. Deeds.

His tag line for his tantrums usually began with, “You can NOT be SERIOUS!” or “The ball was OUT!” If it was a particularly bad tantrum, a racquet could be destroyed. Normally, it would be the referee who’d get the brunt of his abuse.

In some respects it’s sad that he’s remembered this way. However, in the long run, people don’t get to decide how they’re remembered for but are glad that they are remembered with laughter.

Humphrey Bogart (right)
Humphrey Bogart (right) | Source

Humphrey Bogart

Along with Peter Lorre in Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart had been an immortal icon of the silver screen – with the exception of The African Queen which was done in color.

If you’ve ever heard the misquoted line “Play it again, Sam.” – that’s Bogart. (The actual line is “If you can play it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can! – PLAY IT!)

Bogart was a cigarette smoking, whiskey drinking, tough guy who was as big as life as he was in the movies. He was an ugly man who was able to radiate a suave magnetism despite his looks. This is something that could never happen in this day and age – and he pulled it off magnificently.

Bogart made over 81 films in his career. Most of them were playing tough guy detective roles.

Of course, there was also some of his more flawed characters. His performance in The Caine Mutiny as Lt. Commander Phillip Francis Queeg was an illustration of a man on the decline. It was actually required viewing for one of my first ROTC courses as an example of leadership failure. In addition to that, his performance as Charlie Allnut in The African Queen (with Katherine Hepburn) was filmed in Africa in some of the worst, harshest conditions ever filmed. Between dysentery, heat, and malaria, it was amazing he survived to finish it – and this was in the 1950’s.

It can truly be said that after they made Humphrey Bogart, they broke the mold. He was truly one of a kind.

How would you like to be remembered?

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Icons on Amazon

Final Words

It is each man’s desire to leave his mark in time.

It has been said that the entire world should be just a tiny bit better all because one good man has lived. It’s our legacy. We want our lives to mean something.

We have done this in many different ways. The easiest way to do this is to start a family and pass what we know to our sons or daughters. Hopefully, they will take these lessons and pass them down to their kids. It’s an easy legacy to make – especially if you’ve led a productive life full of kindness, charity, and humor.

However, we all look to be remembered. Some people do this by starting up a company and hope that it grows many years beyond their own lifetime. Some people write books. And some people perform in films.

When you create a caricature of yourself that not only brings you fame and fortune but also outlives you to be done by another, you’ve succeeded in making a legacy. Four of these five icons have succeeded in doing that. From Lorre’s Igor character to John Wayne’s cowboy to Bogart’s Sam Spade to McEnroe’s tantrum making incidents, they’ve been immortalized.

But those of us who have found their lives to be in humbler places, we strive to do the same thing by bringing goodness to the world. And those of us who don’t do that live in ambiguity or notoriety. While it takes enormous love and suffering to become a Mother Theresa, immortality can also be gained through the evil and cruelties of an Adolph Hitler or a Joseph Stalin.

And no one wants that.

More than failing to leave our mark, we never want to be remembered for an act of evil or stupidity. I for one don’t want to be the next Thomas Boycott or Edsel Ford. I’d much rather be the next Lincoln, Roosevelt, Shakespeare or Gandhi.


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    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      8 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I actually think the opposite is true regarding technology and ignorance of the past.

      For example, when I was growing up in the seventies (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) up until about 1979 there were no VCR's and cable was rare. I know what you're saying, "So what." When we got an opportunity to see a movie we had to see it in the box office. When the movie ran its course, and eventually came to television, you needed to read the TV Guide to find out if it was going to be run again. And if it were a movie that used "harsh language", it would be cut to ribbons by the censors.

      Today, we not only have movies on demand but we have them in high definition along with about 1,000 channels to view - AND YOUTUBE. If I say a movie with "John Wayne", someone can google it and even watch it on Youtube, see it on Netflix, or buy it on DVD at any large department store. Movies and stars are available on a whim.

      The same can be said about music. If I were to say "Simon and Garfunkel", people could search it on iTunes and have it on their iPhone in an instant. As a matter of fact, I found a 70's artist I'd never heard of named Rodriguez, who was just excellent, and not only was able to instantly download one of his albums on my iPhone but was able to program it into my Pandora station.

      So, it's the story and the entertainment that this later generation just don't understand. Granted, not everything old is good. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 makes its coin showing new audiences bad old movies.

      So, it's a trade off.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      8 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm under 30 but I know of all of these people for the most part. My parents are boomers so I grew up knowing alot about older pop culture and I have always had an interest in pop culture. But when I got to college, I realized many of my friends and classmates didn't know many people who were famous before our childhood.

      I think technology has alot to do with the generational gaps that exist now- generations are in turn smaller and people retain alot but for less time. Also, history is seen as boring but I think history has alot to do with how are present came to be shaped.

      Very interesting hub and very well written.

    • naimishika profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Thanks for sharing good information about these peoples

    • Riverfish24 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks! I will keep this movie on my watchlist for sure.

    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      8 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Okay... Then I have a treat for you.

      The clip -

      And also you may wish to get your hands on "Arsenic and Old Lace" starring Cary Grant and Peter Lorre. It's a good comedy.

      A clip -

    • Riverfish24 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Actually it wasn't, followed too much Tennis as a kid to miss him and his temper :) was Peter Lorre...even though I've seen Casablanca I couldn't place him.

    • cperuzzi profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Peruzzi 

      8 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I'm hoping it was McEnroe. Of all the ones up there, he's the least known.

    • Riverfish24 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Nice hub, well written and totally agree with you! (btw I think I fairedpretty well at the test, I knew all but one icon) :)


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