The castaways of “Gilligan’s Island” had “no phone, no lights, no motor car,” as the theme-song lyrics put it. And for two Long Islanders and the rest of the castaways in California for MTV’s “90’s House,” premiering Tuesday at 11 p.m., the retro abode in which they live has no smartphone, no LED lights and no electric car. Also no laptops, no internet . . . and no Spanx.
“When we got to the house we had no idea they were gonna take away our clothing!” laughs Sha’Monique Wynter, 24, of Brentwood, one of 12 millennial housemates competing in 1990s-themed challenges, presented by hosts Lance Bass and Christina Milian, and trying not to get evicted on the way to a $90,000 grand prize. “Down to our undergarments we dressed like the ’90s!”
“More like the early ’90s,” amends Will Wagner, 27, born in Lindenhurst and raised mainly in Bellmore, where he still lives. The internet only began reaching critical mass among the public in the mid-1990s, changing everything, but before then, as he notes, things were still basically “CD players and boomboxes and cassettes. We had a big shelf of VHS tapes.”
Clearly, for them, living in “90’s House” was dope . . . the bomb . . . all that and a bag of chips.
“Being in ‘90’s House’ was super fun,” says Wynter, who already had a predilection for the decade. “I like CD players. I have lots of CDs — my Britney Spears, my Pink, my Spice Girls, my TLC. I don’t know why we stopped having CDs.”
Wagner not only loves the 1990s, he makes his living from them, as proprietor of the vintage-apparel store Deepcover on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It opened in February 2016 and counts comedian Aziz Ansari, actor Jaden Smith and singer Joe Jonas among its clientele.
Did the other contestants resent Wagner for his ’90s expertise? “There was a little bit of that,” he says, “because for me going into this house I’m like, ‘I do this every day!’ But,” he adds, “everyone in the house is great. I love every single person. Living in the house with everybody, whatever else it was, you get a bond with these people because you’re all in it together.”
Wagner, the oldest of three siblings raised by single-mom Wendy, attended Mepham High School in Bellmore and then got a degree from Nassau Community College. Wynter, an administrative assistant at Defensive Driving School in Central Islip, lives with mom Karen, a certified nursing assistant, dad Norman, a deliveryman, and six brothers and sisters. She graduated from Brentwood High in 2011 and studied at Five Towns College and Suffolk Community College.
Indeed, agree Wagner and Wynter, the ’90s will be sticking around for a few years.
“Everything from that era, everyone wants again,” Wagner says. “They’re bringing everything back: NES Classic with 30 Nintendo games. French Toast Crunch. Crystal Pepsi. People my age, we remember these things, we want them,” he says.
But there’s more to it than that, he adds. “My demographic was probably the last to really remember life pre-internet. You go to the supermarket today and a little kid sitting in a shopping cart has an iPhone. Your kid starts crying? Give him an iPad, dammit! It was a completely different way of life.”
Ultimately, it’s about more than just technology — and that’s the fax.