The Boom in Cover Boys

He wore hip-huggers so snug you could read the washing instructions on his briefs. Despite SHAUN CASSIDY’s provocative attire, TIME dubbed him “the squeaky-clean teen dream” in 1978. As the star of TV’s Hardy Boys, David Cassidy’s younger half brother was a safe date—especially when he sang such lyrics as “Now you know I’m really glad/ I listened to my mom and dad.”

Touted as the Beatles in tartan, the Scottish BAY CITY ROLLERS chose their name by sticking a pin at random in a map of the U.S. It hit Bay City, Mich.; they hit with a cover of the Four Seasons’ “Bye Bye Baby,” followed by the No. 1 single “Saturday Night.” Rollermania reigned briefly but fervently, with fans by the stadiumful going mad for midcalf plaid. “We cut our hair spiky, rolled up our skinners [trousers] and wore them with striped socks,” says former Roller Eric Faulkner. “We were just trying to be different.”

In ’76, PETER FRAMPTON’s double album Frampton Comes Alive! sold 1 million copies in a single week, and the bantamweight Brit was hailed by critics as rock artist of the year. But by decade’s end he was old news: “I started out as a musician and ended up as a cartoon.”

Wearing a leather jacket and sporting his signature sneer, “Aaaaaay!” 5’6″ HENRY WINKLER exploded into prime time as the Fonz on Happy Days. When a teen magazine asked its readers, “Is Fonzie too short for you?” 6,000 fans retorted, “Sit on it!”

His talents were limited—he sang remakes of golden oldies—and he made such forgettable films as The Counselor and Skateboard. Still, in 1978, LEIF GARRETT triggered riots world-wide. Why? He had a killer shag, a lithe bod and the love life of a Lothario. Even at a tender 17, his reputation as a ladies’ man preceded him: He was rumored (falsely) to be romancing ol’ Mama Michelle Phillips, then 34.

He set Thursday-night temperatures rising as sweathog heartthrob Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter; then JOHN TRAVOLTA induced Saturday Night Fever, snagging an Oscar nomination, igniting, the disco craze and selling truckloads of three-piece white suits. “I don’t think you could have put David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman or any other teen idol into Saturday Night Fever,” he said in 1978. ‘They wouldn’t have been physically right.”

When wide-eyed OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN was named top female vocalist of 1974 by the Country Music Association, a critic quipped, “If white bread could sing, it would sound like Olivia.” The winsome Aussie hopped to pop, and her Wonder bread warblings sold like hot-cakes—six gold singles in five years. She shed her Goody Two-shoes image in 1978 as John Travolta’s girl in Grease and then became hopelessly devoted to hubby Matt Lattanzi and daughter Chloe.

As a child, ELTON JOHN weighed 200 lbs. and had a terrible inferiority complex. So he spent the ’70s “catching up on all the games I missed.” In flamboyance, Elton rivaled Liberace (he collected specs by the hundreds and admitted to lovers of both sexes), but even he was cowed by the ’80s nesting craze. He married briefly to be a “family man” but later admitted, “I don’t think you will ever see an Elton Johnette running around.”

Appearances notwithstanding, DONNY OSMOND had no more than the usual number of teeth. He did, however, have a rare run of 23 Top 40 hits—amassed with his brothers and during a three-year stint with sister Marie on their prime-time TV show. Donny donned leather and stubble in the late ’80s but couldn’t kick his spanking-clean aura. “Do you have to be mean to wear jeans and not shave?” he huffed. “That’s what pisses me off about this image thing.”

When ANDY GIBB’s first single, “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” hit No. 1 in 1977, his plans to join his Bee Gee brothers were swept aside; by age 21, he had sold 15 million records. In 1988, after trying to kick drugs and jump-start his dormant career, Gibb died of a heart ailment at 30. Said brother Barry: “He had forgotten how to grab life.”

With seven gold medals, MARK SPITZ left Munich in ’72 the most victorious athlete in Olympic history. (He still is.) Spitz went on to sell a million-plus posters and earn $5 million in endorsements, hawking everything from razors to swimsuits. Although he once said, “Why mess with history?” Spitz attempted a comeback in 1992, but his Olympic dreams sank.

He was called the Iceman by his compatriots, but no one generated more heat on the tennis court than Swede BJÖRN BORG, whose golden curls were as lethal as his two-fisted backhand. When he appeared at Wimbledon in ’74, police were needed to protect Borg—the future five-time Wimbledon champ—from the hordes of tennis groupies.

A torch-song temptress, LINDA RONSTADT ignited both sexes. Boys adored her waifish beauty, while girls empathized with the words etched by her searing soprano in songs such as “When Will I Be Loved” and “You’re No Good.” She wore her fame uneasily: “It’s unnatural to have people staring at you, it’s embarrassing.” But she didn’t help matters by dating such low-profilers as then Gov. Jerry Brown and George Lucas.

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