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Like, totally, the end of one mall's era

Anne McDermott

By Anne McDermott
CNN Correspondent

April 15, 1999
Web posted at: 10:50 a.m. EDT (1450 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

In this story:

What grew out of a mall culture

Like, totally, a lingo

Becoming an L.A. landmark

A grody demise

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Remember, like, Valley Girls?

Think back to the early '80s. Think malls filled with mini-skirted teens with big hair and their own special language. Think "gag me with a spoon." Fer shure. You remember.

But that was a long time ago. The species has disappeared. And now, the last visible symbol of that era is on the way out: the Galleria is shutting down.

What grew out of a mall culture

There was a time when the Sherman Oaks Galleria was the most famous mall in America, at least among those of a certain age.

Galleria Mall

They loved the Galleria and loved that it was mentioned in the 1982 Frank and Moon Unit Zappa hit single, "Valley Girl." And why not? The Galleria was widely considered to be the birthplace of the "Val" (as Valley Girls would refer to each other in a kind of shorthand).

It all began in the fall of 1980. That's when the Galleria opened in the heart of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, better known locally as "the valley."

Back then, the three-story, skylighted, enclosed structure was considered the epitome of all that was cool in mass consumption. Teens discovered the Galleria and quickly packed the place.

It had everything: trendy boutiques, Pac-Man game booths and what passed for exotic fare at the food arcade (yes, even hot dogs on a stick).

Plenty of the mall rats enjoying all this were boys, but, for some reason, it was the girls who were noticed. And somehow, someone, somewhere, thought to call them "Valley Girls."

Like, totally, a lingo

To be called a "Valley Girl" was not exactly a compliment. It conjured up images of vacuous, giggly girls with lots of time on their hands and a bizarre language on their lips.

Sample phrases:

"Grody to the max." Translation: "How dreadful."

"Gag me with a spoon." Translation: "That makes me sick."

"Like, totally." Some translations: "Exactly," or "I certainly agree with you," or, in the current vernacular, "Duh!"

Becoming an L.A. landmark

Moon Zappa captured a lot of that talk in "Valley Girl," the song she wrote and recorded with her father.

Naturally enough, she learned her Val-Speak at the Galleria, where she got to know a lot of Vals.

Moon Unit Zappa
Moon Unit Zappa recalls younger days hanging out with Valley Girls at the Galleria   

Moon Zappa satirized the culture with lyrics that emphasized the air-headedness of Valley Girls, but in a recent interview, she said she only wrote the song so she could spend more time with her father. In those days, Frank Zappa was touring with his band nine months of the year, and Moon, then 14, simply missed her dad.

The Galleria didn't just inspire music. It also provided the backdrop and much of the plot for some classic films. OK, they weren't classics, but they did have their moments.

Maybe "Valley Girl," a movie about Valley Girls meeting Valley Boys for Valley Romance, wasn't "Casablanca," but it did give us a glimpse of the early Nicolas Cage with a full head of hair. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was not exactly one of the greats either, with its plot of Valley Girls meeting Valley Boys for Valley Romance, but at least it showed a young Sean Penn with shoulder-length bleached hair, and that's something you don't see every day.

Oh, and the movies also offered plenty of pretty pictures of the Galleria, and business was good.

But those days are long gone now. Eventually, the structure is to be turned into an office complex.

A grody demise

So what happened?

Some believe the end began with the Northridge earthquake of January 1994. The mall was heavily damaged and closed for repairs for a time, and business never really recovered.

Others say the loss of key stores was to blame. Still others cite competition from other malls. And there are some social scientists who believe the demise of most malls is inevitable, thanks to changing tastes and Internet shopping.

Of course, it may be that the Galleria's time had simply come ... and gone, because the Valley Girls are gone. They all grew up.

Cari Berg did. The 30ish interior decorator is also a wife and mother, but she used to be a Val.

Berg and son
Cari Berg, now a mother and interior designer, shows her son around the empty mall   

We recently invited her to take a look at the now empty mall, and she thought it would be fun. She pushed her 8-month-old son in his stroller and remembered the girl she once was.

"My hair was much bigger," she laughed. She smiled remembering how lively the place was back in the '80s, when she and her friends ruled.

For a moment, a hint of the old Valley Girl echoed in her voice, when she looked around slowly and said, "It was just, it was just totally different."

A last look, and she was gone. The Galleria was silent.

y: CNN's Anne McDermott on the really scary part of Halloween: adults
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