Beverly Hills 90210: 10 Rules For Coolness At West Beverly High
Fox’s hit series Beverly Hills 90210 revolved around a group of teenagers at arguably America’s most posh secondary school, West Beverly High School. It was overflowing with pretty, rich kids with attitude bursting out of their acid-wash seams. There was a suitably dramatic mix of personalities, from troubled loner, to fish out of water, to nerd, to innocent girl, to bad girl. But every high school has its unwritten rules for coolness, and our friends at West Beverly were no exception. Here are the top 10:
10. Don’t Play School Sports
In most high schools, the athletes rule the roost. But not so much at West Beverly. Who was the captain of the football team? Anyone? School sports were often springboards for other issues on Beverly Hills 90210. In season two, we were introduced to Kyle Conners, a school track and football star. But he only seemed to exist to come out of the closet so we could see how our cool kids dealt with that revelation. He also brought up the issue of steroid use on the school track team. As for our favourite West Beverly alums? Brandon was briefly seen on the track team with Kyle. He tried out for the basketball team, but only to expose the subject of ringers. We also see Brandon capably playing hockey once in the high school years, while Dylan and Steve look profoundly awkward in their hockey gear. Steve seems to excel at a little beach volleyball action in the summer. Dylan surfs. But our heroes are not exactly Friday Night Lights material.
9. Have an Exposed Forehead
Here we’re talking mainly about the guys. Kelly and Brenda had fabulous bangs covering their foreheads during the high school years. On the dude side of things, Dylan led the way with his James Dean rebel look, bangs moussed or gelled straight up, pointing toward the heavens, like the wind from a high-speed motorcycle trip was perpetually blowing his bangs back. Steve’s curly blonde locks rarely strayed below his hairline. Brandon at times had a bit of a wave up front, but it rarely dipped below his hairline. David’s hair was usually especially product-laden, with bangs slicked or swept back. Finally, the guy who proves that bangs make you uncool at West Beverly: Scott. Remember him? David’s best friend in the early episodes was known for wearing a Lakers hat, and later a cowboy hat, with bangs draped over his forehead. And what happened to him? Not only did he have trouble fitting in, but he went and shot himself dead.
8. Display Bad Taste In Music
Okay, this is subjective. And the music they loved at West Beverly was very much of its time. But does it hold up? That is the question. First of all, the theme song is the exception. It totally holds up. Power chords, hand claps, melodic guitar solos: you can’t go wrong with that. Back in the fall of 1992, they released the CD, Beverly Hills 90210: The Soundtrack. It featured that great theme song, plus a host of non-hits by some big stars of the time, like Paula Abdul, Color Me Badd and Vanessa Williams. On the show itself, we heard tunes from the likes of Bel Biv Davoe, MC Hammer, Debbie Gibson and Seal, often on David’s radio show. Not to mention The Heights. Remember “How Do You Talk to an Angel?” But occasionally the producers came through with some strong choices. Take season two, episode 34, which featured three R.E.M. songs: “Radio Song,” “Shiny Happy People,” and “Losing My Religion.”
7. Wear Acid Wash Jeans
This was a product of the early-90s times, of course. Acid wash was totally cool. Look at just about any non-summer-season cast photo from that time and you’ll be blinded by the faded blue denim, sometimes with the added touch of rolled up cuffs. There was usually plenty of room in them, too. No skinny jeans here. Sometimes you’d see Brandon going all-in with the denim in the “Canadian tuxedo” (jeans and jean jacket together). Jason Priestly is Canadian, after all. The girls liked to take the acid wash their own step further, often donning high-waist styles, with belts up around their belly buttons. It was something. Then, in the summer, you could occasionally spot some denim cut-offs (even though it was southern California and shorts could be worn at any time).
6. Deal With Family Drama
It’s unfortunate, but it’s also the way things go on a soap opera: there’s got to be drama. First of all, the Walshes were the exception here. They were supposed to be the fish out of water and the moral high ground of the series. They were the model to which we compared all other families on the show. Steve was the adopted son of divorced parents. Kelly’s parents were divorced. Her mom, Jackie, was the “fun mom,” but also an alcoholic and drug-abuser. David’s parents were divorced and his mostly absent mom suffered from manic depression. In fact, Kelly’s mom hooked up with David’s dad and they had a kid together. Even Donna, whose parents were together, had her troubles at home. Her mom was super conservative and overprotective, so they often butted heads.
5. Grow Awesome Sideburns
When we first met Brandon in the pilot, he had a bit of a mullet going on. A remnant of his hockey-playing Minnesota roots, most likely. But he still knew what’s what. He already had those sprawling brown sideburns stretching about two thirds of the way down the side of his ear. He’d soon meet his future best bud, Dylan, who set the mold for West Beverly ‘burns.’ His were narrower and longer than Brandon’s. At their longest, they went just about down to his earlobe. When Steve sported some, they were shorter and tougher to spot, as light blonde as they were. Future The Heights cool rock dude Ray’s sideburns were more Dylanesque. All those sideburns told the pubescent people of West Beverly that they weren’t mere teenagers. They were virile men capable of growing thick, lustrous facial hair. Of course, that was made easier by the fact that the actors were grown men in their 20s.
4. Have Parents With Money
Truthfully, it kind of went without saying that just about everybody at West Beverly had money. It’s kind of a prerequisite for the titular zip code. Okay, the Walshes weren’t quite as loaded as some of their friends, but ol’ Jim and Cindy clearly did well enough for themselves to live in a nice house in Beverly Hills. Steve’s mom was a famous actress and his dad was a very successful businessman. Somewhat similarly, Kelly’s parents raked it in through modelling (mom) and business (dad). David’s money came through his dad, who was a dentist to the rich and famous. Donna’s parents… well, they just looked rich. And Dylan’s dad, Jack, notoriously earned much of his wealth through not-so legal means. Then there’s Andrea, who proves the rule: not rich, not cool.
3. Don’t Be Andrea
Poor Andrea Zuckerman. She didn’t stand a chance when it came to coolness at West Beverly. For starters, she wore glasses — the nerve! Only nerds wear glasses, right? And she was smart. Only nerds are smart and wear glasses, right? And she didn’t come from money and used her grandmother’s address to gain entrance into the educational Valhalla of West Bev. In the early years, she had an unrequited crush on Brandon, because if you’re uncool, you cannot find love. Not until after high school, anyway. And it was all topped by the fact that she was played by Gabrielle Carteris, who was in her 30s and pretty much looked like she was in her 30s for most of the show’s run.
2. Have a Sweet Ride
There were plenty of super sweet rides among the coolest of the student population – namely our favourite band of buddies: Brandon, Dylan and Steve. Let’s start with Brandon and his yellow-ish convertible ’65 Mustang. At the beginning of the season two summer episodes, Brandon briefly quit his job at the Peach Pit for a better-paying gig, because he had his eyes on that classic ride. Poor Nat just didn’t have the pockets to feed Brandon’s need for speed. So Brandon moved on to the Beverly Hills Beach Club for the cash. By episode six, it’s his for a mere $3,500. Dylan went with foreign craftsmanship and the ’58 Porsche 356 “Speedster.” In season five, a desperate Dylan drove it off a cliff in an attempt to off himself. And then there’s Steve, who went domestic but contemporary, with a slick, black, presumably early-90s Corvette. Complete with “I8A 4RE” license plate. That was the original. He had a few ‘Vettes over the years, but ultimately had to move on to a mini-van as an “adult” in the final season.
1. Be Supportive of Your Friends
Say what you will about all the drama surrounding our friends at West Beverly. Of course there was occasionally bad blood between the main characters – they were teens and it was a soap opera, what do you expect? But, deep down, they really cared about each other. They supported each other during hard times, like when Brenda finds a lump in her breast; David’s friend Scott dies; Brenda is held at gunpoint; and Brenda has a pregnancy scare. And then there’s sweet, innocent Donna. Always trying to help. Finally, when she needed help herself, the whole school came through for her. Her drunken prom night got her suspended, making her ineligible to graduate. Then the whole school came together for the infamous “Donna Martin graduates!” protest.