20 YEARS LATER!
Everyone has high school memories that make them cringe. But when you're Mario Lopez, those teen mistakes have been witnessed by millions. Exhibit A: the mullet. "I liked my hair long because I wanted to look like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon," he says of the flowing locks he sported as A.C. Slater on the hit sitcom Saved by the Bell
from 1989 to 1994. "I didn't even know I had a mullet! Looking back, I guess it does qualify."
Yes, Mario, it was a mullet. And let's not forget the neon leotards and acid-washed denim. But 20 years after Saved by the Bell
debuted, and long after those clothes left closets for good (we hope), the kids from TV's Bayside High are more popular than ever—thanks to the devotion of tween, teen and twentysomething fans and nonstop reruns on TBS. So popular, in fact, that devotees—including late-night host Jimmy Fallon—get giddy at the thought of a class reunion. So on a hot July day in Los Angeles, People got the gang to regroup for the first time since the show wrapped. "When you're young you don't think, 'This is something I'm going to cherish forever,'" says Tiffani Thiessen. "But I spent a lot of formative years on the show. We had a lot of firsts together."
As TV's first live-action Saturday-morning sitcom—it competed against Bugs Bunny
—the show got off to a rocky start. "It was campy," recalls Mark-Paul Gosselaar. "No one wanted to admit that they watched it. We constantly thought we were being canceled." Soon, however, thousands of fans began mobbing the cast's mall appearances. Even so, their real-life growing pains were never tabloid fodder. "All of us dated at one point or another—it was incestuous!" says Gosselaar. "Sometimes the girls would gang up on the guys. Tiffani and Elizabeth would hate me, and then they'd hate Lark because Lark was talking to me, and Mario was supposed to side with someone. All that stuff you did in high school, like, 'How could you talk to him?'" Thiessen demurs. "Did we have crushes on our costars? Absolutely," she says. "But we were so young!"
Despite the adolescent angst, the castmates look back on their school days with fondness. Says Gosselaar: "It's a good bunch of people. It makes me proud." Adds Elizabeth Berkley: "It was like family. This feels like picking up where we left off."