Old-school cool goes far beyond a hip attitude or widespread fame when singling out those celebrities who fit the bill. True icons have much more to offer the world than a pretty face or a funny dialogue. These celebrities have openly shared their gifts with us all and taken their place as legends within their industries. They grab our attention in ways that spark our curiosity, inspire our imaginations, and encourage us to find our place in the world.
No matter what role he played, whether it was a desperate father disguising himself as a housekeeper in Mrs. Doubtfire, a somewhat spastic, animated blue genie/life coach in Aladdin, or a mentally unstable photo developer and stalker, Robin Williams took each portrayal to places only he was capable of. While it was his comedy that first stole our hearts, he could also immerse himself into scarier or more dramatic characters that reminded us just how versatile he was. He frequently reminded the public through his movies and stand-up comedy performances, his interactions with fans, and thousands of interviews that we should be kinder to one another. The fact that he named his daughter Zelda, after everyone's favorite princess, made us love him even more.
Born to two of the most famous people in Hollywood, Carrie Fisher was the daughter of singer and actress Debbie Reynolds and actor, singer, and infamous philanderer Eddie Fisher. Carrie was 19 years old in 1997 when George Lucas offered her the role of Princess Leia Organa in a swashbuckling, sci-fi adventure. We loved her from the first moment she appeared in that grainy hologram, with her now-iconic plea: "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." Fisher's final Star Wars appearance occurred three years after her death through the magic of visual effects in The Rise of Skywalker. Instead of CGI, unused footage from The Force Awakens provided the world a chance to officially say goodbye to the iconic Leia.
She was not only a symbol for fashion and beauty, but she was also one of the most significant icons in movie history. Monroe's vulnerability and charisma on screen were ever-present, yet, it was her private life that became a source for constant scrutiny by Hollywood gossips and fans alike. Few people know that Marilyn was an intellectual who read constantly when not on set. And, she was a feminist, long before there was an organized movement to back her. When Twentieth Century Fox continuously overworked her and forced her into "dumb blonde" roles, she broke her contract with them and opened her own production company.
In the 1960s, the American rock group, Mothers of Invention was performing and experimenting with music like no other band of the time. Their leader was Frank Zappa, a charismatic musical genius who pushed the boundaries of cultural constraints to their maximum limits and shocked society's ears. While his peers were experimenting with hallucinogens and other drugs, Zappa never did. Humor was at the core of his lyrics, but explicit sexuality wasn't uncommon. In the 1980s, his hit song "Valley Girl" introduced the world to the life of a San Fernando Valley schoolgirl and their uh, like, totally, unique way of speaking.
Horror fans around the world claim The Thing is one of the most iconic films ever made. This 1982 sci-fi thriller directed by John Carpenter opened to negative reviews, but years later, critics and movie hounds alike discovered its magic, dubbing it "Alien On Ice." The movie's main character, R.J. MacReady, is a helicopter pilot stationed at U.S. Outpost 31, a research station in Antarctica. His crew encounters a parasitic extraterrestrial, and the adventure begins. Throughout the movie, MacReady/Russell enchants audiences with a constant stream of memetic quotes, which has firmly cemented him among other cultural icons of the movie industry.
It was after seeing the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in her native Mexico that Salma Hayek decided she wanted to be an actress. In 1991, she made her way to Los Angeles, and by 1995, director Robert Rodriguez offered her the role of Valentina in the cult favorite, Desperado. She easily matched the intensity and physicality of her co-star, Antonio Banderas, and audiences fell in love. Hayek went on to star in other cult classics like From Dusk Till Dawn, Dogma, and Frida. Although her beauty is unquestionable, her old-school cool status comes from her both her comedic and dramatic acting skills as well as her high-level performances in action roles. Her most recent venture as Ajak in Marvel Studio's Eternals is proof of her ongoing iconic status.
There's something about acting families that grabs the public's attention, especially if the actors are young and on the fast track to stardom. River Phoenix had a huge future ahead of him, with promises of superstardom lighting his life path. His first major role was in Stand By Me in 1986. By 1988, at the age of 18, he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Running on Empty. But, tragically, with fame comes temptations, and River overdosed on cocaine and heroin, dying at the age of 23. His younger brother, Joaquin, a fervent animal rights activist, also started acting at a young age, starring in several major films, including an unforgettable and award-winning performance in Joker in 2019.
When teenagers wanted to hear the latest top 40 hits and enjoy some really groovy dance moves from the late 1950s into the mid-2000s, they watched the television show American Bandstand. Its host, Dick Clark, took the show from a local Philadelphia broadcast to a national one, and it didn't take long for audiences to start tuning in. Clark became a go-to authority on music and its industry behind the scenes. Music historians say Clark helped America become more receptive to rock 'n roll, a genre that had previously been the target of criticism from parents, politicians, and religious leaders alike. Race was no barrier on the show from the very beginning. White and Black alike people shared the dance floor, and popular R&B and soul artists performed on the show.
Influential and creative, Jimi Hendrix opened the world to vast new possibilities that could be achieved through the electric guitar. But that wasn't the only thing that earned him his legendary cool status. He also had a renowned sense of style. Between 1965 and 1970, Hendrix immersed himself in fashions of the time, a cross between Romantic and Victorian aesthetics that rockers around the world were soon emulating. A black hat and belled sleeves became staples in his wardrobe. He honored his Cherokee ancestry by dressing in beaded, fringed, indigenous-style suede fashions for his performances. It was in the summer of 1969 that he performed his famous rendition of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a performance that still ranks among the highest in the history of rock' n roll.
Although she may not have landed the cover of the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated these days, Cindy Crawford is still one of the most famous supermodels of all time. Her athletic build stood out from the other rail-thin models strutting the runways in the 1980s and 1990s, which led to her multi-million dollar endorsements from some of the biggest brand names in the world, including Revlon and Pepsi. Her success was an early sign of change and a move toward acceptance for the vast range of women's body shapes. Now in her 50s, she's still rocking Instagram with gorgeous photos that remind us what the word "supermodel" really means.