Match point: Decades of “it” couples
From Fred and Ginger to Brad and Angelina, each decade has its darling duo.
He may have been able to dance on walls and ceilings, but Fred Astaire is remembered best for dancing with Ginger Rogers. "He gives her class, and she gives him sex appeal," quipped Katharine Hepburn. Hollywood’s famous dancing duo never scored an Oscar nomination for their film work, but together Fred and Ginger became the enduring symbol for a grand life beyond the Great Depression. These six couples followed with their own unique two-steps.
JOHN AND YOKO, 1960s
In late 1966, having designated The Beatles "more popular than Jesus," John Lennon met his irreverent equal in Yoko Ono. Her first word to this member of the Fab Four? "Breathe." So he did. And for the next decade, the couple took aim at stiff white-collar America. Lennon’s fame mingled perfectly with Ono’s bold performance art to create photogenic anti-war messages. While other celebs frolicked in Puerto Vallarta, Lennon and Ono brought the press along on their honeymoon. But instead of offering up rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, they chanted "Give peace a chance" — and the world climbed into bed with them.
SONNY AND CHER, 1970s
Known as the "Me Decade," the ’70s saw hipsters swaying to the tune of Sonny and Cher’s "I Got You Babe." When CBS gave the couple their own show, viewers couldn’t get enough of Cher’s glamorous Bob Mackie gowns and kitschy torch ballads. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour was the perfect showcase for Cher’s acerbic wit — often directed at Sonny masquerading as the hapless husband. Their power play reflected the rumbles of the sexual revolution, but at home Sonny was king. After discovering that 95 percent of "Cher Enterprises" belonged to Sonny — and the other five to their lawyer — Cher left to find her own spotlight in Hollywood.
KEN AND BARBIE, 1980s
Before Bratz, there was Barbie. Launched in 1959 by Ruth Handler, the doll was based on Lili, a German cartoon character. A few years later, Barbie got her own boy toy: Ken. Together they embraced consumer culture with a shiny accessory for every occasion: sports cars, swimming pools, campers and an endless supply of fabulous designer labels. In 1985, Day-to-Night Barbie reflected a new generation of women climbing the corporate ladder: her power suit could be transformed into a chic cocktail dress when turned inside out. Meanwhile, Ken embodied the decade’s sensitive New Man. Rather than relying solely on his physical prowess (like action figures of the past), Ken’s manly power lay in his unfailing ability to look good on the arm of his perfectly proportioned plastic princess.
FOX MULDER AND DANA SCULLY, 1990s
The truth may have been left up in the air, but the sexual tension between this small-screen duo was palpable. In the early ’90s, FBI agents Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) introduced TV to a relationship it had rarely seen: a platonic bond between two smart and sexy characters. On The X Files, "skeptic" Scully joined forces with "believer" Mulder to run the government’s paranormal branch. Their ambiguous relationship appealed to a generation hooked on "did they or didn’t they?" conspiracy theories. Finding the truth "out there" became as much about government cover-ups as it was about seeing whether the brooding and sardonic Mulder would ever let his guard down and use Agent Scully’s first name. (He never did!)
RUPERT EVERETT AND MADONNA, PRE-9/11
In the 21st century, Sex and the City showed us that it was fine for women to flip men as often as they changed their Manolo Blahniks. But who would Madonna be if she didn’t up the ante? In the wake of sexually empowered women, the Queen of Pop rejected sex entirely. Madonna found woman’s new best friend in gay British actor Rupert Everett. "We’re both minorities, and we both love to shop," Madonna said of their affair. But the truth was more complex: Everett was one of the few men who understood Madge’s blond ambition without holding it against her. "They are the same thing, really: homosexuals and ‘she men,’" said Everett. The union renewed the A-list’s love of British boys, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwen Stefani each taking an English hubby.
BRAD AND ANGELINA POST-9/11
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are doing their darndest to break box-office records while saving the world. The most beautiful couple in Hollywood partakes in premieres and after-parties one day and fights for human rights in war-torn Darfur the next. And the Brangelina brand is eco-friendly too: last November, they bought Ethiopia island in Dubai’s man-made recreation of the world. The magnanimous duo plans to make the island such a paragon of eco-living bliss that it will encourage mere mortals to go green. Celebrity bloggers call the couple’s biological daughter "the chosen one," and damn it if Shiloh won’t blossom in a world that her parents have made as perfect as themselves.