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Whip It Good: How to Have a Totally Rad ’80s Party

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Every year my husband and I host a theme party focusing on a certain decade.


We’re pretty strict about it: All the music, movies, games and—most importantly—food at the party have to have been introduced during that decade. Our first party had an ’80s theme, and I really went to town.

80s party food california pizza

Fly Food


For the main courses, nothing says ’80s cuisine like California Pizza. I made a homemade version with pesto sauce, à la Wolfgang Puck’s signature pies that rocked Hollywood, and topped it with artichoke hearts and the ubiquitous sun-dried tomatoes. There are a few other ways to make it, including: California Pizza, California White Pizza,  and California Calzone recipes on Tablespoon.

I figured we already had enough bread with the pizza dough, so I didn’t make another ’80s classic, spinach-and-sun-dried-tomato dip served in bread bowl. But that—maybe in a hollowed-out pumpernickel round—would make a perfect appetizer.

80s party food strawberry poke cake

I also wanted a homemade dessert too. A quick peek at the Jell-O website revealed that a cake I remember from my childhood, Jell-O poke cake, was invented in the mid-’80s. It fit in perfectly with all the other neon snacks: It’s a regular layer cake, but then you poke holes in it and pour in liquid Jell-O and chill the whole thing. When you slice into it, you find a drippy, Technicolor rainbow inside (and you know how Tablespoon loves Rainbows!).

I make homemade versions of as much food as I can, but I do give myself some leeway when it comes to snacks and candy. Candy from the ’80s included Reese’s Pieces, Skittles and Nerds!

Most Excellent Entertainment


Entertainment is key as well. If you really want to go old school, drop your party beats using a boom box. If you don't have one, ask around, you'll be surprised how many people still have one! For our party, I checked out the Billboard lists for popular songs and made a mix—this was a great way to remember some classics I might’ve forgotten otherwise. Here are some that are a must for your mix tape:






At our decade parties, we also like to play a variety of campy and award-winning movies. Lists of Golden Globe and Oscar nominations are helpful with this, but nostalgia is great was well. For our ’80s fest, we watched an embarrassing number of John Hughes movies. Speaking of...


The ’80s were also a fantastic decade for party games, so in between movies, we busted out the boxes of Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Trouble and even a plastic Battleship set from 1989.

We had so much fun—and food!—that the event turned into a totally awesome all-night movie, music and game extravaganza.

Those are my tips, now share yours. What's your favorite way to rock the '80s?

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