The biography on his website is unambiguous: "Kurt Andersen is a writer." But that simple sobriquet is perhaps a cheeky nod to the man's multiplicity of talents. The Harvard- educated novelist, radio host, commentator, screenwriter, producer, columnist, editor and all around bon vivant shared an evening with more than 150 people Friday, Sept. 10 as a guest speaker for the Cazenovia Forum at the Catherine Cummings Theatre. Andersen, host and co- creator of the Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 radio magazine show, shared his thoughts on the future of American political, social and cultural trends in the face of the new economic realities of the day.
Andersen opened his talk with the proposition that the 1980s lasted far more than a decade. "History doesn't repeat, but it rhymes," he told the audience, quoting Mark Twain. In 1986, Andersen explained, the feel-good, party-hearty attitudes of Americans became a permanent mindset. "We all know, I think most of us, it used to be that decades lasted about ten years," he said. "We all know what the '50s means, we have a sense of that. It probably started in the late '40s sometime and certainly the '50s ended by the time of the birth control pill and Kennedy's assassination and the arrival of the Beatles," he said. "We know what the '60s are and we know that the '60s ended probably in the early '70s and we know that the '70s ended between 1980 and 1982, in all the meaningful senses beyond simple chronology," he explained. "What we know as the 1980s -- politically, economically and culturally -- what are they? Well, it started with the personal computer and the Reagan administration and deregulation and this incredible bull market on Wall Street and then it just went on and on and on." Andersen suggested that the 1980s never really ended -- until now.