In “Life-Line,” a story by Robert A. Heinlein, a scientist describes a man in the present as a “space-time event.” He explains, “Imagine this space-time event which we call Rogers as a long pink worm, continuous through the years, one end at his mother’s womb, the other at the grave. It stretches past us here and the cross-section we see appears as a single discrete body. But that is an illusion.”

For those of us who made it through the summer of 1987, things may have seemed to be an illusion. The spacetime coordinates were out of sync. The feeling was that of reeling back along the “long pink worm,” as we snaked back to earlier times on the screen and through the airwaves. One thing is certain: People are longing for a time that is not the present.

Consider what Hollywood offered. There were the two big TV remakes. The Untouchables and Dragnet, both offering an old-fashioned concern with maintaining order. Dan Aykroyd’s Joe Friday is something of a buffoon, but he gets the girl. And as for The Untouchables, the main comment must be about its star and new heartthrob, Kevin Costner. His quick smile and normal good looks (the new Gary Cooper?) do not recall Robert Stack so much as Spin and Marty on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” It’s the same period of history, just a different channel.

Disney, of course, is very much with us, and not simply through the “adult” Touchstone Pictures subsidiary. It brought back Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for a 50th anniversary run. This time around, the film bought publicity at the new cultural centers that have replaced movie theaters. McDonald’s had movie posters available, and the Today Show ran several special segments on it. Still, the innocence that we associate with our past was there, and no one would admit that the film has a dated feel about it, even though it does.

And there was that daughter of Disney, Annette Funicello. This time around she was not on TV pushing peanut butter but with Frankie Avalon in Back to the Beach. This is not the first contemporary remake of a beach movie. As you may have tried hard to forget, there was an updated Where the Boys Are several years ago. What improvements there were in evidence lay not so much in the acting as in the strategy and structural design of bikini-wearing. But while Where the Boys Are was largely panned, there was a tacit acceptance of Back to the Beach.

One requirement of beach movies is that they include a geek, bozo, nerd, or otherwise uncool person. Pee Wee Herman fills that role, in part, in Back to the Beach. Of course, the quintessential outcasts of the 50’s and 60’s were the Three Stooges. While they never made it into a beach movie (though they did do a science fiction piece), their influence on the summer of ’87 was clear. Disorderlies, starring a trio of rap singers collectively and accurately known as the Fat Boys, pays contemporary homage—long overdue—to Moe, Larry, and Curly.

Before leaving the beach, we should pay tribute to North Shore, a combination of Ride the Wild Surf with Fabian and Tab Hunter (1964) and The Endless Summer (1966), with the Karate Kid thrown in for good measure.

Although the very fact that Timothy Dalton replaced Roger Moore in the role of James Bond was enough to make The Living Daylights noticeable in itself, another item loomed nearly as large: 1987 is the 25th anniversary year of Bond on the screen. It is worth noting that with the restraint and respect toward women shown by the new Bond, it’s not inconceivable that Snow White could be the next Bond girl.

The biggest musical hit of the summer was La Bamba, the unforgettable story of Ritchie Valens. (Who?) La Bamba‘s success is not a result of the music—Valens was a marginal performer in a minor league—and there could hardly be less to his life story, real or fictionalized. The film really strikes a chord in those of us who grew up reading Highlights for Children, the ongoing saga of Goofus and Gallant, to be more specific. Ritchie (Gallant) and his half-brother Bob (Goofus) play that story out to the hilt. And we really can’t be surprised when Gallant flies away and becomes an angel, for he was just too darn good for the rest of us.

The summer of ’87 was the 20th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album that effectively marks the break with hard-edged rock ‘n’ roll and ushers in the lush orchestration of pop music. Ignore the psychedelic referents, and you can discover the roots of techno-schmaltz.

The Beatles were very much in evidence this summer. There was the release of their early albums on compact disc so that upscale recording buyers can preserve crackling black vinyl memories via digital technology. Then there was the lawsuit against Nike for using “Revolution” to sell sneakers. (Remember the chain of “Running Dog Shoe Stores” in The Big Chill, a perfect movie for this summer of love 20 years later?)

The use of The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” on TV commercials to sell Time magazine subscriptions is almost as good as “Revolution” and running shoes: Imagine Roger McGuinn looking at the free quartz travel alarm clock through his granny glasses and David Crosby stuffing god-knows-what in the Time parachute nylon luggage. Mr. McGuinn, you will be happy to learn, has become an evangelical Christian and continues his career under somewhat different auspices.

The biggest reprise of the summer was the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death. One fan said that while she needed surgery, she didn’t want to have it scheduled to get in the way of August 14; a pair of married fans boasted that they were planning to make sure that the birth of their child didn’t interfere with the yearly pilgrimage to Graceland.

The Grateful Dead—who had their biggest summer ever, including their first MTV video—made the best observation on this “retro worm” summer: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”