All's Well That Sells Well

updated 07/27/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1992 01:00AM

Who was the casting genius who came up with this lineup of teenage testosterone? In 1983, Francis Coppola's The Outsiders may have been shut out by the critics, but his band of brooding bad boys (from left, EMILIO ESTEVEZ, ROB LOWE, C. THOMAS HOWELL, MATT DILLON, RALPH MACCHIO, PATRICK SWAYZE and, yes, that's TOM CRUISE squinting in the corner) went on to top-gun, dirty-dance and karate-kick their way to box office triumphs.

In her purple-and-gold Laker Girls outfit, 5'2" PAULA ABDUL had as many moves as Magic Johnson. Post pom-poms, Abdul found platinum with Forever Your Girl and a husband in Emilio Estevez. Arsenio Hall called her "the hardest-working woman in showbiz." So what if she lip-synched a little—it wasn't her lips we were watching.

When JON BON JOVI's Slippery When Wet hit No. 1 in 1987, heavy metal never sounded so lite. But, in this case, lite made right; it sold more than 13 million copies. The Mr. Nice Guy of metalheads is forever modest: "We're just a bunch of kids from Jersey who got a break."

First thought to be a Wham!-bam flash in the pan, GEORGE MICHAEL shed his Wham! mate and dyed-and-feathered blond locks in 1986. From beneath the baby fat of the once pudgy Greek-English crooner emerged a tawny singer with soul, a fierce 10 o'clock shadow and a naughty hit; "I Want Your Sex" was banned by one in three U.S. radio stations in 1987. No matter. Michael has long felt doomed as a "sex symbol to thousands of virgins."

Before MICHAEL JORDAN, basketball was played mostly on the court. But once the 6'6" Chicago Bull turned it into an aviator's sport, everything else soared with him—his salary (now $3 million), the endorsements (some $13 million worth a year, from Nike to Gatorade) and the number of fans who want to be like Mike.

JANET JACKSON'S first steps out of big bro's shadow were tentative: a couple of weak albums and supporting parts on TV. But in 1986 she took Control and followed with the hit Rhythm Nation. She signed a $32 million deal with Virgin Records, only to be topped by Michael and his $60 million SONY contract.

With his churlish curl, pouty lips and leather jacket, JOHNNY DEPP invoked the '50s rebel but gave him a modern edge—sensitive and committed. As an undercover cop in high school on 21 Jump Street, Depp became the Fox network's first cover boy. For Johnny, the teen-dream image was "funny...like a corny greeting card."

A self-described high school band nerd (drums), JOHN STAMOS transformed himself into soap stud Blackie Parrish on General Hospital in 1981, then made the cutest uncle ever on TV's Full House for five seasons—and counting. Still humble, he gladly poses for pictures outside his L.A. bachelor—repeat bachelor—digs.

MICHAEL J. FOX travels right. He turned the supporting role of Family Ties' cuddly Alex P. Keaton into a seven-season starmaking vehicle, then hitched a ride Back to the Future in Doc Brown's DeLorean and landed in box office heaven (the trilogy grossed $416 million).

His Purpleness fused androgyny with songs of sexual explicitness. After the disc-and-flick hit Purple Rain, PRINCE left the '80s royally: scoring 1989's Batman and squiring its leading lady, Kim Basinger.

As Chachi on Happy Days, he flexed, flirted and nearly out-Fonzed the Fonz. Then in 1984, SCOTT BAIO began a five-year run on Charles in Charge, playing the most offbeat nanny since Mary Poppins.

Born to Run came out in 1975, but BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN was reborn in the U.S.A. in the '80s, when Rolling Stone pronounced him the "voice of the decade." Raspy, seductive, filled with working-class fury, his sound renewed rock.

Warhol decreed 15 minutes of fame. MENUDO's manager is slightly more generous: Members of the Puerto Rican pop quintet face forced retirement at 16. The tally so far: 28 obsolescent adolescents. Below, Menudo of 1986.

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