The Transformers: Then and Now

Fame is a fickle lady and the Transformers know this all too well. They had an exhilarating rise to the top of the entertainment industry only to find the jagged cliff of oblivion waiting for them filled with drug abuse, alcoholism, and ultimately murder. It seems that the age-old trappings of fame and money have affected the miraculous robots in the same ways that brought down such glorious Hollywood stars as Fatty Arbuckle and Marilyn Monroe.

Before their wildly popular TV show, the Autobots and the Decepticons had a solid start in the toy industry in May of '84. Yet their representative fashions and styles (which started in plastic at 1:14 scale) quickly jumped off the assembly line and onto the hottest runways across the globe. They dictated the ethics of cool in the early to mid eighties with many a fashion victim following blindly in their trendsetting wake. Supermodel Iman remembers: "Optimus Prime was always setting the pace, although I had heard that Mirage was really the brains behind their look. At one point all I could do was sprinkle glitter on my skin even to be photographed by Avedon."

Even the evil Decepticons ruled the runways. In 1986 Starscream, leader of the jets, started his own label of designer jeans, "SS". They had the unusual but distinctive look of shredded denim, but were covered in zippers and snaps so that the wearer could re-attach them in any manner possible. This way the fashion conscious could wear their jeans whether they were strutting their stuff on the boardwalk or driving their transformed bodies on the highway.

Not only did it seem that the elite of New York City, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo couldn't get enough of their favorite diametrically opposed super robots, but children from all countries were spellbound by their enigmatic shape shifting abilities, metallic vices and amazing acrobatic feats. Luckily the world would be able to get much, much more soon.

On November 21st, 1984 "The Transformers" started airing on TV sets across the globe. Now their influence was quickly detected in other cultural fields. Almost-dead hippie Peter Max started painting transforming portraits of his wealthy sitters, freely adding to his canvases Autobot or Decepticon insignias for the patrons liking. Even Producer DJ Jazzy Jeff invented his signature record scratch called the "Transform". With Fashion, Toys, TV, even the print industry (the record selling transformer comic book series and paperback romance novels demanding greater and greater sums) starting to be ruled by the Transformers empire, it seemed the movies couldn't be far away.

After a tense but progressive series of talks between the robot leaders of Magatron and Optimus Prime, a core group of transformer robots set their engines westward to Hollywood California. There they met with executives from all the major studios and ultimately negotiated a contract with De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG). The picture would begin shooting immediately and preparations were quickly made to assemble the complete grouping of transformers in Hollywood, including the most recent additions to the crew, the Dinobots, Constructicons and the Insecticons.

The film was shot in only 4 weeks, with an amazing in theatre time of only 14 months. On August 7th, 1986 "Transformers: The Movie" debuted at Mann's Chinese Theatre not far from the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The Transformers had made it. A 20 city press tour quickly fol- lowed with Bumble Bee, Grimlock and Omega Supreme heading to Europe, The Constructicons and Insecticons heading to Japan, Australia, and India, while Megatron, Starscream, Jazz, and Optimus Prime stayed in the US conducting lectures at universities and attending celebrity filled dinners in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Rumors circulated in the tabloids of the addition of Soundwave to the heavy metal group Anthrax, while Ramjet and Molly Ringwald had been spotted at late night parties in Denver. The famed Tunnel in New York City, even held a "Transformer Ball", author Camille Paglia arrived dressed as Megatron while singer Laura Branigan, in scandalous silver full-body paint only, sang the theme song of the movie and TV show to the star struck audience. Rumors still circulate to this day of the presence of several Decepticons and one prominent Autobot to be present in a drug-fueled orgy with several anonymous nymphets in the legendary basement of the club. If ever there had been a warning sign of the troubles to come, this was it.

The royalties from the move seemed to disappear like so much blow up the vacuum tube of an Autobots nose. It seemed that drugs were especially potent on the robot's central nervous systems. The Autobot Jazz was the first transformer to be brought up on drug charges, and very quickly afterward Megatron himself checked into to the Betty Ford Hospital. All five Constructicons were arrested for prostitution and grand theft auto and sentenced for twenty years hard labor (they made bail in March 1998). And it became readily known in Las Vegas that Grimlock, king of the Dinobots was addicted to sado-masacistic fetishism (He quickly changed his name to "Dino-fuck" and was never heard from again).

Then in 1994, on a hot late August afternoon in Pasadena California, two police officers knocked on the door of Optumist Prime's ranch house at 2445 Pleasantville Valley Lane. Inside they would find what would become one of the most debated and watched television stories for years to come. Mr. Prime, apparently inebriated and semi-conscious, answered the door and allowed the

two officers in, who explained to Mr. Prime that there had been a call to the precinct of alot of yelling and some loud noises coming from his house. The officers asked if they could look around, which Mr. Prime immediately granted. The house was only five rooms, but underneath the back room was a staircase leading to the basement below. Officer Rick Sweewell first came into this back room and, after noticing the specks of blood near the far wall and staining a throw rug, he called for his partner, Officer Casey Povonowich. There they removed the blood-speckled rug to find a cellar door. Inside it they found the bodies of four teenage girls, their skins partially removed and their sexual organs filled with molten lead. This would be the last thing they would ever see. Optumist Prime, in one easy gesture, smashed the heads of both officers, then pulled out his plasma blaster and melted his own, one heroic head. The bodies of the four victims, two officers and Optumist Prime himself were recovered shortly after the plasma blast was heard echoing through the neighborhood. On Prime's arm was etched the code "45df.34fy.89000.v" which was decoded by Autobot Wheeljack as "No Kicks". The true meaning of this phrase continues to be the source of much speculation on Transformer and conspiracy theory websites to this day.

But not all the Transformers had such a tragic story. Decepticon Starscream fell in love with a young character Actress named Lucy Lawless, who now enjoys the lead role on "Zena: Warrior Princess". Autobot Bluestreak stayed true to his Christ- ian values and lives in suburban Det- roit with his wife Valerie and three children, Zed, Naught, and Blue- streak jr. Recently paroled Construc- ticon Grapple came back into the headlines when he announced his Silicon Valley software company "GREENBOT" would be developing a new line of transformable personal vehicles designed to help with yard work and entertainment activities. The new "greenbots" will begin production in spring 2001.

But the Transformer's legacy can be felt in more ways than one. On a recent episode of PBS' series "The Antique Roadshow", appraiser Dennis Marringham, of Marringham and Associates of Rhode Island, estimated the value of an original Megatron autographed and vapor burned photograph from 1983 at almost $3,000. Auction house Christie's is planning a Transformer's memorabilia auction in November of 2001. "If it ends with ­icon, -itor, or ­tron than I buy it. Usually without noticing the price!" says collector Chuck Randle.

Performance artist Karen Finley remembers: "They were just the coolest! It was, like, this giant Robot would just do a back flip and turn into a BMW or something. But you know, I always wanted to see what their dicks looks like." Indeed, Karen, the Transformers will hold a special place in our minds, and hearts.