The '90s: Extraordinary lives

  • People
  • Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014

There were many memorable people in the 1990s, but only some of them still get talked about today.

THEY are the people who made the 1990s matter. Every time we reminisce about the good ol’ decade, these are just some of the names that pop up in conversation and oh, how we regale their stories as if they only happened yesterday.

Mike Tyson

He is known as the “baddest man on the planet” and there is a solid reason behind Iron Mike’s menacing nick name. The former undisputed heavyweight champion is well known for his ruthless antics in and out of the ring. The 1990s were not friendly to his career. Tyson struggled with a drug addiction, anger management and was even imprisoned for three years on rape charges, before he was released in 1995.

A year later, Tyson defended the World Boxing Association title against Evander Holyfield, who emerged the surprise victor at the end of the fight.

Tyson next fought Holyfield on June 28, 1997 at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena for which the former was paid US$30mil (RM96mil). However, the eagerly anticipated fight had to be stopped at the end of the third round when Tyson was disqualified for biting and spitting out a piece of Holyfield’s right ear. Tyson’s boxing licence was rescinded and things eventually went downhill for the former champion then on.

Nelson Mandela

After serving 27 years in prison for political offences, South African anti-apartheid activist and hero – the late Nelson Mandela – was released from prison on Feb 11, 1990. Upon his release, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress, which was still valiantly fighting against apartheid in the country, and worked towards South Africa’s first multi-racial elections.

In 1993, he and South African president F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system.

A year later, at the age of 77, Mandela created history by becoming the first black president of South Africa as the result of the country’s first democratic elections.

Princess Diana

Dubbed “the people’s princess”, Diana, Princess of Wales had always been an active supporter of many charities that worked with people living with HIV and AIDS.

Her fairytale wedding to Prince Charles did not lead to a happily-ever-after, with reports of infidelities from both sides.

In December 1992, the couple’s separation was announced by the then-prime minister John Major, who read a statement from the royal family to the House of Commons.

During the period of estrangement – the divorce was finalised in 1996 – Diana created a stir by upping her fashion choices, namely the daring Christina Stambolian dress, dubbed the “revenge dress” that she wore to the Serpentine Gallery summer party in 1994.

Details of Diana’s personal life soon took over the tabloids, and her romance to playboy Dodi Al-Fayed caused quite the media frenzy. The couple was involved in a tragic car crash in Paris, while trying to escape the paparazzi, and Diana succumbed to her injuries on Aug 31, 1997.

Bill Clinton

Of all the things Bill Clinton had said throughout his presidency, (sadly) his “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” is the one that stands out the most.

On Nov 3, 1992, Clinton was elected the 42nd president of the United States, and together with his vice-president Al Gore, he led the nation to strong economic prosperity. While Clinton was in office, the country enjoyed low inflation and unemployment rates and an improved economic equality.

However, all of Clinton’s good work was overshadowed by the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.

Clinton initially denied any sexual relations with the 22-year-old White House intern, producing the infamous soundbite above.

Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice for his actions in the Lewinsky affair and was subsequently acquitted on all charges in 1999.

OJ Simpson

For years, mostly only American football fans knew who Orenthal James “OJ” Simpsons was but all that changed on June 12, 1994.

The former footballer, with a relatively successful acting and commentating career, was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. The couple was found stabbed to death outside her house in Los Angeles.

Simpson, suspected for the murders, led the police on a nationally televised slow-speed chase in his Bronco, but eventually surrendered voluntarily.

Thus began the “trial of the century”, during which Simpson pleaded that he was “absolutely, positively, 100% not guilty.”

In what many people deem as a great injustice, a jury panel found Simpson not guilty of both murders.

However, in 1997, a civil jury found Simpson liable for the wrongful death of Nicole and Goldman, and ordered him to pay US$33mil (RM105.4mil) in damages.

Magic Johnson

In a press conference held on Nov 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced his retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. During the same event, Johnson also revealed that he is HIV-positive.

This revelation became a major news story around the world, and subsequently established the Magic Johnson Foundation to support HIV/AIDS research efforts and awareness programmes.

Despite discrimination from other players, Johnson played in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He was part of the American “Dream Team” which included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley and won the gold medal.

Johnson had plans to return to professional basketball for the next season, but unfortunately had to drop his plans after protest from other players who were concerned about playing against an HIV+ person.

Datuk M. Magendran and Datuk N. Mohanadas

On May 23, 1997, Datuk M. Magendran and N. Mohanadas proved to all Malaysians that there is no mountain high enough to stop a person with a dream. Standing on the summit of Mount Everest, Magendran and Mohanadas became the first Malaysians to reach the world’s highest summit at 8,848m above sea level.

The two mountaineers were part of the 10-men team for the Malaysia-Everest Project 97, jointly organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Malaysia Mountaineering Association.

Datuk Azhar Mansor

He is the first Malaysian to sail solo around the world and the first person to set a new solo west-east circumnavigation route.

On Feb 2, 1999, Datuk Azhar Mansor started his historical journey from Pulau Langkawi on the RM2mil ship named Jalur Gemilang which would eventually cross five seas, four continents and five capes.

Initially, Azhar wanted to beat the solo world record of 105 days, 20 hours and 31 minutes set by Frenchman Christophe Auguin in 1997, but his plan fell short after the yacht’s mast broke near the Falklands on April 25, 1999, forcing him to head for the mainland.

Azhar eventually resumed his trip which took 190 days, six hours, 57 minutes and two seconds to complete.

This challenge was reclassified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), Britain, as Langkawi to Langkawi – Solo Round The World, Assisted With Stops, East-bound.

Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock

This dynamic duo created history when they became the first Malaysians to win silver at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States.

These badminton heroes lost out to Indonesian heavyweight team of Rexy Mainaky and Ricky Subagja at the finals.

The Cheah and Yap pairing also proved fruitful at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur at which they won the silver medal in the Men’s Doubles category.

Their achievement contributed to the overall success of the Malaysian badminton team, which bagged the Gold medal at the event.

Cheah and Yap were also part of the national badminton team that won the Thomas Cup in 1992.

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