Friday, October 21, 2005

Entertainment Icons of the Century

Variety, the venerable magazine of the entertainment industry, is celebrating its 100th anniversary issue by naming the entertainment "Icons of the Century". There are 100 "icons" named but only the top 10 are ranked in order.

At the top of their list are The Beatles.

The rest of the top 10 are (in order): Louis Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse, and Elvis Presley. (A worthy cross section of cultural and entertainment icons to be sure.)

The other 90 (unranked) "icons" include names such as Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Oprah Winfrey, the Marx Brothers, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Cary Grant, Tupac Shakur, Lassie (the only animal in the group...I guess Flipper can't get no love from Variety :-), and Pac Man (who made the list even while my main rabbit Bugs Bunny did not.)

As always, these types of lists are highly subjective (of course) but still kind of fun in a discussion-starting sort of way (I might have put Bob Dylan and Superman in the top 10 instead of James Dean and Mickey Mouse, for example, but I realize that others will have other worthy candidates as well.)

Variety has presented their top 10 entertainment icons of the past 100 years...who would you have put in yours?


hanieh said...

PINK FLOYD! I can't believe they didn't even include pink floyd. What a shame.

uao said...


Well, my personal icons list would look different, but taking the broad view:

1. Elvis Presley (transcends humanity, becomes god-like icon)

2. James Dean (jeans and a T-shirt have been cool ever since)

3. Marilyn Monroe (certainly no other woman has had her staying power -almost six years, three generations- in sex appeal)

4. Marlon Brando (for being several different kinds of icon at once)

5. Mickey Mouse (should count, since he was also an 'entertainer' and personality)

6. Andy Warhol (also should count, since he had more in common with entertainers as a 'personality' than he did with most artists; he certainly was an icon)

7. Billie Holiday (has been an icon longer than Marilyn Monroe)

8. Charlie Chaplin (his memory is fading as fewer people watch silent film; still, he's instantly recognizable in almost any country)

9. The Beatles (I rate them lower because their iconism is diluted by being four; while they still straddle music history like colossi, they're not icons in the universal, non-field-specif way the others are)

10. Frank Sinatra (has to be in the top 10)

Helen said...'s a surprise for ya! Jerry Garcia!
(nice to see you. where have you been?)

Christopher said...

Hi Michael. I love your comment on this. I suppose it is true that in entertainment, one is only as good as their last show. The Beatles seem to rise up from the woodwork every five years or so, with a retrospective album or "previously unreleased" versions of their music. As Gore Vidal put it, we live in the United States of Amnesia. What happened prior to 1950? Does anyone care?

As for icons, are they purely for entertainment value? Certainly for Variety's means they are, but what about artists that transcend the footlights? What if we were to dig deeper: Josephine Baker? Paul Robeson? Charles Chaplin? John Lennon? And what about Michael Jackson?! He certainly has been more "Iconic" than Marlon Brandow. Or, am I being Ironic?

What about Vito Russo? Marlon Riggs? Maybe I've gone a bit too far?