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The year that brought you the last shutdown (yes, there were Beanie Babies)

Few people are nostalgic about the 26 days of shutdowns that froze the federal government in the waning months of 1995.

But the possibility of the first federal shutdown since the Macarena was cool has a lot of people recalling an era when a compromise to avoid a shutdown was a “Jagged Little Pill” for both sides to swallow … an age when lines of Alicia Silverstone’s dialogue from Clueless aptly described how the American public viewed Congress ….  a time when people unironically used the exclamation "Psych!"

Yeah… remember the 90s?

Two shutdowns lasted from November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996. At the time, the first edition of Dreams from My Father had just been published; Rep. John Boehner was giving President Bill Clinton coal for Christmas, and it was unusual to see a news story in which the Speaker of the House (Newt Gingrich) cried in public.

And the year that brought you the last government shutdown also brought you virtual pets, Pinky and the Brain, and Cal Ripken’s record-breaking 2,131th consecutive game.

Here’s some other tidbits from what trends, flicks, and tunes were --  um, “phat”? --  the last time that a congressional budget impasse caused federal workers to wonder how “essential” they really were:

  • In December 1995, “One Sweet Day” by Boyz II Men (feat. Mariah Carey) topped the Billboard charts.  Also big in the last months of the year that also brought you the original Saved by the Bell! soundtrack: Coolio’s "Gangster’s Paradise" and “Waterfalls” by TLC.
  • The Beatles were back, with Anthology  1 leading album sales, while recent releases like Hootie’s Cracked Rear Viewand Alanis Morisette’s 16x platinum international debut were still selling like hotcakes for the holiday season.
  • As the shutdown dragged on through the nation’s New Year’s Eve celebration, viewers of "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve" could enjoy the talents of Yasmine Bleeth of Baywatch, Jamie Walters of Beverly Hills 90210, Brandy, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Rembrandts (famous for the song “I’ll Be There for You” -  the theme of Friends, which was in its second season. You know, the one when Monica was dating Tom Selleck?)
  • Kids flicks Jumanji and the original Toy Story movie were vying for first place at the box office. Moviegoers could have also enjoyed Mortal Kombat, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Get Shorty, or GoldenEye.
  • Lovers of a snarky towhead and his chummy stuffed tiger were mourning the end of comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, which signed off on the last day of 1995.
  • The Christmas of Tickle-me-Elmo was yet to come (that was 1996), but Beanie Babies were a top toy for holiday gift-giving in 1995.  Pogs remained big with the kids, as did all forms of plastic incarnations of Toy Story protagonists Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody.

And this one’s for all the congressional staffers who may not be able to use their Blackberries to check their work emails during a potential shutdown… In 1995, Motorola unveiled its StarTac mobile phone, the lightest cell phone made to date.  Its price tag: $1000.


Don'cha think?