10 Times Celebrity PSAs Tried (And Failed) To Scare Us Straight

Television programming in the 80s and 90s were all gems. Children at the time learned a lot by watching TV so Public Service Announcements (PSAs) were a big deal.

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During an era without internet and social media, televised PSAs were very important in raising awareness for social issues relating to drug use, education, sex, etc. These announcements benefited from star power so they usually featured celebrities to get people’s attention. I guess people listened to their favorite stars more than their family and friends?

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Here are 10 serious, bizarre and funny PSAs featuring some popular celebrities from the 80s and 90s that you might have forgotten about:

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1. MC Hammer – Too Legit To Quit School

To get on MC Hammer’s good books, all kids in the 90s had to do was know how to properly use the word ‘too’ and stay in school.

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2. Jackie Chan – Mr. Condom

The “action hero” did a PSA featuring an animated condom with martial arts skills to encourage the public to practice safe sex to protect themselves from diseases like HIV. It’s a painfully cringeworthy clip for a very serious topic.

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3. Pee Wee Herman – Crack Cocaine

Paul Rubens, best known as Pee-wee Herman, made this somber anti-drug PSA in 1980. Remember kids, when it comes to crack cocaine, “Don’t even try it. The thrill can kill.”

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This PSA was part of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign which also featured Olivia-Newton, Ally Sheedy, Bette Midler and Clint Eastwood, who was also a little upset about vandalism…

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4. Clint Eastwood – “Take Pride in America”

If you’ve littered or vandalized a public place in the 90s then you were one of the bad guys that angered Clint Eastwood, enough for him to make a PSA about it.

5. Michael J. Fox – “Don’t Play With Matches”

The puns were strong in this 80s PSA in which the Back to the Future star warned kids about the dangers of playing with matches. The PSA was featured on a series called One to Grow On that aired on Saturday mornings from 1983 to 1989 on NBC.

6. Eric Carr – “Don’t Mess With The Kids”

Shortly before his death in 1991, Kiss member Eric Carr made a PSA warning the public about the severe consequences of bringing drugs to school zones.

Did you know they used to have “Drug Free School Zone” signs alongside the roads in the 90s?

7. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Cast – Respect

If you didn’t want to get on the Rangers’ bad side, you had to show respect and never bully others.

8. Joanna Cassidy – Forest Fires

This 1973 PSA about forest fires starring Blade Runner actress Joanna Cassidy talking in a sensual tone is wildly uncomfortable, and it gets even more disturbing when she suddenly rips off her skin to reveal Smokey the Bear underneath. *Shudders*

9. Mel Gibson – “It’s Only Vitamins”

In 1993, Mel Gibson wanted to inform the public that the government may be coming after them because they were “considering classifying most vitamins and other supplements as drugs.”

The action-packed PSA lasted only a little over a minute, but it actually led to some major changes such as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, or DSHEA, a law which protects our access to dietary supplements.

10. Henry Winkler, John Ritter, and More – “Strong Kids, Safe Kids.”

A few celebrities including Happy Days star Henry Winkler (as himself and the Fonz) star in this 42-minute PSA which was meant to teach kids about sexual abuse. There’s even an awkward-but-informative song around the 10-minute mark about what to call body parts.

Do you remember watching these PSAs on TV?

Emma C
Freelance Writer