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9 Weird Dance Crazes From '90s TV Shows

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Nothing says the '90s like a cheesy dance craze. These dances will bring back some memories—feel free to dance along.

1. "The Bartman" from The Simpsons

From the album The Simpsons Sing the Blues, “Do The Bartman” and its accompanying dance was an international hit in 1990. Incredibly, Michael Jackson actually co-wrote the song with record producer Bryan Loren. Jackson was a die-hard fan of The Simpsons and Bart, but didn’t receive credit for the song because he was under contract with a competing record label. Although it wasn’t officially released as a single in the United States, “Do The Bartman” was a chart-topping hit in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Pixar director Brad Bird directed the music video for “Do The Bartman,” which received a nomination during the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

2. "The Sprain" from Saved By The Bell

In the episode “Dancing to the Max,” the kids at Bayside High School prepare for a dance competition. Lisa Turtle hurts her ankle, but she joins forces with Samuel “Screech” Powers, battles through the pain, and wins the competition with a new dance called "The Sprain."

3. "The Carlton" from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

"The Carlton" became a staple of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when it was introduced in the sitcom’s third season. Alfonso Ribeiro combined Courteney Cox’s dance from Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video, Eddie Murphy’s “white man dance,” and the Tom Jones hit “It’s Not Unusual” to create this wildly popular dance that still can bring the house down.

4. "The Routine" from Friends

In the episode “The One with the Routine,” Ross and Monica re-create a dance from their childhood to get on TV during a New Year’s Eve broadcast.

5. "The Urkel" from Family Matters

In 1991, everyone's favorite wacky neighbor introduced "The Urkel" during season two of Family Matters. Like "The Bartman," this dance craze was so popular it inspired T-shirts and a hit single.

"The Urkel" even crossed over to fellow ABC sitcom Step by Step in the episode “The Dance” later that year. Urkel makes a cameo appearance as Al’s (Christine Lakin) date to a middle school dance.

6. "The Elaine" from Seinfeld

“Sweet Fancy Moses!” This dance was introduced in the season eight episode “The Little Kicks” when Elaine Benes tries to get the party started at an office function. It combines a series of pointed thumbs, little kicks, and body convulsions that has become a go-to dance for the rhythmless.

7. "The Alley Cat" from Mad About You

In the episode “The Wedding Affair” from Mad About You's first season, Paul and Jamie try to liven up a wedding reception with "The Alley Cat" line dance.

8. "Dancing Baby" from Ally McBeal

The Dancing Baby was one of the Internet's first memes. It was launched in 1996 and gained widespread attention when it appeared on Ally McBeal a few years later in 1998. Featured in the episode “Cro-Magnon,” Ally McBeal starts fantasizing about a baby dancing around her apartment to the song “Hooked on a Feeling.”

9. "Apache (Jump On It)" from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

In addition to "The Carlton," Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro created the "Jump On It" dance when they were goofing around on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The dance was introduced during the sitcom’s sixth season and eventually became a way for Smith and Ribeiro to warm up before shooting a new episode.

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14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now
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From old toys and housewares to books and records, these pieces of '70s memorabilia have aged (and increased in value) like fine wine.

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10 Things We Learned From Vanilla Ice's 1991 Autobiography, Ice by Ice
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Vanilla Ice turns 50 on October 31, which will either make you feel very old or compelled to ask a nearby senior who Vanilla Ice is. The hip-hop artist was best known for To the Extreme, his 1990 album that sold 7 million copies, and its breakout single, “Ice, Ice Baby.” He also had a notable turn as himself in 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze before attempting to reinvigorate his career as a Rasta-infused rapper with dreadlocks after his initial novelty wore off.

Before that happened, Ice (a.k.a. Robert Van Winkle) penned Ice by Ice, a 1991 “autobiography” that has no co-author byline but was probably written by a man named Randi Reisfeld, who is thanked by the rapper in the foreword for “putting my thoughts together.” At an economical 164 pages, it’s essential reading for anyone who wanted to know the name of Ice's signature hairstyle (“the beak”) or how women can grab his attention ("dressing super-sexy”). Here are 10 things we learned about the Iceman in this revealing paperback cash grab.

1. HE CUT HIS OWN HAIR.

Even at the height of his fame, Vanilla Ice wouldn’t trust just anyone to get near his trademark pompadour that he dubbed “the beak,” with lines shaved into the sides and a light stripe whooshing through the front. To maintain the look, Ice preferred a DIY approach. “I sit where there’s a mirror behind me and hold another mirror in front of me,” he writes. “That way I can see my whole head.”

Ice was so demanding of his follicles than anything less than perfection would be met with self-banishment. “I don’t like to be photographed unless my hair is perfect—that’s why you’ll see pictures of me in baseball caps a lot.”

2. HE DOESN’T CRY.

“I don’t cry and I don’t know why,” Ice explains. Even when he shattered his ankle as a teenager in a motorcycle accident, Ice didn’t get weepy. The only time he confesses to feeling even a passing sensation of tears is when he was handed plaques for having a platinum record. “My eyes got watery … it’s as close to crying as I’ve ever come.”

3. HE GOT STABBED IN THE BUTT AND LOST FOUR PINTS OF BLOOD.

Vanilla Ice in a Miami Football T
Scott Harrison/Getty Images

As Ice’s popularity grew, much was made of his claims that he grew up in rough parts of Miami and Dallas, where he joined a street gang after his stepfather relocated his family for a job opportunity. Some observers accused him of embellishing his background in order to appear more like a hardcore street urchin. Ice bemoans the fact that he’s felt compelled to pull down his pants to show off the scar on his butt from a knife attack at age 18. According to the rapper, a street fight turned ugly when an attacker pulled a knife and sliced open his thigh and buttocks, requiring an extended hospital stay after he lost four pints of blood. “What they did was put this thing that looked like a Q-tip with alcohol on it down inside my leg to plug up the artery,” he writes. (He didn’t cry, though.)

4. HE WORE MISMATCHED SNEAKERS TO SCHOOL.

Growing up, Ice bounced from school to school, admitting he wasn’t very interested in formal education and jarred by having to be the new kid on a regular basis. To offset that sense of isolation, he began showing up in increasingly outlandish outfits, including wearing mismatched shoes. “I’d wear a boot on one foot and a tennis shoe on the other,” he writes, “wear blue jeans with one leg long, the other leg cut off, stuff like that.”

5. IF HE HAD A PROBLEM, HE REALLY WOULD SOLVE IT.

Ice maintains that he was never comfortable sharing his feelings with others. His mother, who was single until marrying his stepfather when Ice was eight years old, tried to put him into therapy to address his troublemaking ways at school; Ice refused to talk. “I never needed to talk to anyone to solve my problems,” he writes. “A lot of people need someone to talk to, but I’ve never been able to open up and do that. Never could, never will. That’s just the way I am. And that’s just exactly where the ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ hook came from—‘If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.’”

6. HE WOULD SOMETIMES USE DIRTY WORDS.

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Engaging in rap battles growing up, Ice would occasionally deploy some profanity—not because he necessarily wanted to, but because his competitors had started it and he needed to keep up. “The thing is, I wouldn’t do it unless some other rapper started cursing and dissin’ me and the crowd started liking it,” he writes. "'Cause if the crowd starts liking the cursing part, that means to win you’re going to have to curse back at them.” Ice maintains in the book that his raps were clean on his records because “I don’t need to put in dirty words to express myself.”

7. HE WAS ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS VANILLA M.C.

Ice got his start performing at City Lights, a dance club in Dallas owned by future manager Tommy Quon. With “Robert Van Winkle” not having a ton of appeal on a marquee, Ice decided to take the nickname given to him as a teenager when he was beatboxing and rapping in his neighborhood (“Vanilla M.C.”). But Quon pointed out that there were already a lot of “MCs” in the music business, including M.C. Hammer and Young M.C. “You know, your raps, your rhythms are really smooth, smooth as Ice, in fact,” Quon told him. Writing that “it sounded okay to me,” Vanilla M.C. became Vanilla Ice.

8. HE WAS DRAWN TO WOMEN FOR THEIR LOOKS.

Not one to sanitize his image for the masses, Ice admits that his primary concern when dealing with the opposite sex is whether he finds them attractive or not. “My first impression of a girl, whether I’m going to be drawn to her or not, is based on her looks. I know it’s not fair, but then I see what her personality is like.”

Once Ice establishes a woman could engage him intellectually while still “dressing super-sexy,” he enjoys entertaining them at fine dining establishments. But not too fine. “I like candlelit romantic restaurants, but not those where the menu is so fancy that I don’t know what I’m ordering.”

9. HE GOT AN OFFER TO APPEAR IN A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET SEQUEL.

Vanilla Ice and Kristin Minter star in 'Cool as Ice' (1991).
Universal Home Video

Ice’s career could have gone in multiple directions following the success of To the Extreme. He filmed a cameo in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel and had his own starring vehicle in 1991’s Cool as Ice. In between those projects, Ice was offered a small role in a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, presumably to be murdered by Freddy Krueger, “but I didn’t have room in my schedule to take time off for it.” 

10. HE WAS STALKED BY A SATANIST.

We’re cheating slightly, since Ice doesn’t disclose this fact in his book, but it’s still worth noting. At height of Ice mania in the 1990s, the rapper told Rolling Stone that a woman began following him around in an attempt to convert him to Satanism. Ice first noticed the woman at Wembley Stadium when she flashed him in a trench coat. (See: number 8.) Later, the same woman followed him to Japan and left a book under his hotel door: a Satanic Bible, with a personal message to join the flock. Why? Because his birthday falls on Halloween.

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