If you’re a member of Generation X, or just a big fan of all things rad and 1980s, then the new Atlanta-based newsletter, The Fast Times, is right up your alley. Co-founded by Mark Putnam and Steve Denker, The Fast Times aims to connect the past and present with a shared love of nostalgia, music, and film along with reasserting Gen-X influence. Putnam, who works in brand marketing and social media for WarnerMedia, talked to us about about his tubular new project and shared a mega-playlist.
Q. The Fast Times newsletter is targeted toward Gen-X’ers with all kinds of ’80s and ’90s references, throwbacks, and memories, but there also seems to be a clever way of incorporating new technology and more “modern” content into the mix to keep us older kids in the know. How do you select and curate the topics for each newsletter?
A. Every issue of The Fast Times boasts a central theme based on historical precedents set by Xers, which we then compare to interesting parallels unfolding today: #CancelCulture and “Political Correctness”, livestream shopping and QVC, Twitch heroes and mall arcade legends. To boil it all down, we compare the life experiences and societal happenings of the ‘80s and ‘90s to today’s trends. Turns out, they’re not so different.
Q. What led to the creation of The Fast Times in the first place and its unique target market?
A. Essentially, TFT came from a desire to create something truly awesome for Gen-X that wasn’t just another AARP mailer. Here’s where this gets weird: I’m a core millennial by birthright, hence the “& wannabes” in our tagline. Be that as it may, I’m a serious lover of Gen-X culture. And when friend, former colleague, real Xer, and TFT cofounder, Steve Denker, approached me with an idea to make something cool for Gen-X, I couldn’t resist. We immediately dove into content — films, TV series, music, commercials, everything, and dragged our families along for the ride as well. From there, I began developing the voice, tone, and visual identity and Steve hit his Rolodex hard to generate some interest. Gen-X is the first truly global demographic. As the pioneers of early internet, video games, telephones without cords, untethered music, MTV (the real thing), and so much more, it’s members also dealt with divisive political rhetoric, challenges to civil rights, the AIDS epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, economic boom, bust, and boom again — all similar aspects to what we’re collectively dealing with today. So drawing parallels, honestly, is the easy part. The bigger challenge is narrowing the focus since we’re a very small team with big aspirations — but isn’t that the name of the game?
Q. You’re obviously a big music and movie fan. How do you select the films and playlists to share each week?
A. As an integral part of Atlanta-based TCM’s [now-defunct] arthouse film streaming service, FilmStruck, I had the distinct pleasure of spending my former 9 to 5 immersed in indie cinephile culture. By employing a content strategy that showcased the more whimsical, deep-cut film offering, I got a firsthand deep-dive into films, filmmakers, and talent from over 50 countries throughout 100 years of cinema — a joy we hope to share with the masses as streaming burnout becomes a bigger deal. Each issue, we curate a thematic watchlist to inspire readers to expand their cinematic palettes and, more importantly, to relive the joys of video store browsing — they’re still around, people! The real music aficionado is my wife, Nicki. Not only is she the creative force behind much of The Mixtape, she curates The Fast Times’ weekly Spotify playlists by again focusing on diversity and the many genres of music that came from the period. Steve’s wife, Karen, is also intrinsically involved in the project, sourcing topics, leading social media outreach, acting as our Gen-X north-star.
Q. If you’re a Gen-X’er, where are must visit places in Atlanta?
A. Let’s do one of those 24-hour whirlwind tours, shall we? Start the day with a comfy biscuit from Home Grown GA, because who can say “aw, hell nah” to a fried chicken biscuit smothered in sausage gravy? Then swing by Videodrome to grab a stack of DVDs to get you through the weekend . Then head over to Criminal Records to cop some rad vinyl. When you’re done, peep the marquee at The Plaza Theatre to see what retrospective they have lined up either at the main hub, or at the pandemic drive-in in collaboration with Dad’s Garage. Be sure to stop for a drink at The Righteous Room next door after snagging your tickets. Next, hit up Richard’s Variety Store for some throwback swag, hilarious gags, and timeless treats. By now, that belly is probably rumblin’, so be sure to stop by Glide Pizza for a giant, NY style slice — the best in town, (don’t skip the house-made ranch & peppers, either). Bonus: owner Rob always has dope beats bumpin’ from the kitchen. From there, you have a couple of options: do some late-night bowling at the retro-chic Midtown Bowl, find your inner arcade hero at Joystick Gamebar; or grab a nightcap and an unforgettable show at the iconic Clermont Lounge.
Q. If you could jump in a time machine and go back to the ’80s, where would your destination be?
A. David Hasselhoff live at the Berlin Wall? The Miracle on Ice? The early days of hip-hop in New York City? The MTV control room during the network’s maiden broadcast? Probably not Chernobyl, the eruption of Mount St. Helens or Cape Canaveral during the Challenger crisis. The premiere of E.T.? The Cabbage Patch craze of ‘83? A random den with a TV dinner, a NES, and a case of New Coke? The Beijing student protests? Unlikely, but still interesting. Charles and Diana’s star-studded wedding? So many society-defining events, innovations, successes, and flops to choose from, so little time.