January 1, 1990. It would have been difficult to convince the desperate gasaholic of 1983 that what he dreamed of as he jogged to work in his recycled polyester suit--an abundance of oil--might turn out to be a disaster. But a disaster is what the oil glut turned out to be, deflating an economy dependent on inflation, throwing into penury countries and companies that thrived on shortages.
The Eighties were a decade of supreme contradictions: ten years of glorious up- and downheavals,120 months that have had extraordinary effects in all areas.
Let us look again at the successes--and failures--of the tumultuous era 1980-1989. The decline and fall of Congress. The legendary tour of the Great Wall of China. The much-vaunted--and regretted--International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm. The first nationwide election of Anchor Man of the United States. The dream of ending world hunger with the potatolo--a cross between a buffalo and a tuber. Let us live again in a time that knew the horrors of cancer and the joys of broccoli. In a world that boasted pets, pâté and post offices. Let us recall what it was like when sex still included the need to achieve orgasm--and let us remember how it felt, in a world virtually deprived of man-made fibers, to stumble around in a plasterboard suit.
Here, then, is a blow-by-blow account of how we lived, loved, danced, dressed and dreamed--throughout the Eighties:
January 9. The Mexican National Oil Corporation opened the first MEXXXON station in San Antonio.
March 19. A nationwide chain of law firms, Torts 'R' Us, opened for business in Chicago.
April 15. Jane Fonda and her husband, Tom, announced the founding of the Hollywood United Activists' Coalition (HUAC). The organization's purpose, they said, was to "ferret out" members of the entertainment industry who might directly or indirectly have supported the U.S. war effort in Vietnam.
May 2. The Italian government announced that it would start accepting kidnapees as legal tender.
July 15. In their continuing push for equal rights, women insisted on a shorter average female life span.
July 19-August 3. The Moscow Olympics were marked by a series of surprisingly easy wins for Soviet athletes. Visiting teams were hampered by such things as marbles on the track during field events and a series of all-night vodka parties in and around the Olympic Village.
August 11. James Earl Carter lost the Democratic nomination for President to Edward Kennedy. The next day, in a widely praised move to preserve party unity, Carter accepted the Vice-Presidential slot.
September 17. Jerry Brown announced he was resigning the governorship of California to devote more time to Federal-spending reform. Three days later, he accepted the presidency of the CBS television network.
October 1. Consumer Concepts of Toledo marketed the satellite umbrella, a reinforced steel device designed to protect pedestrians from orbital debris.
November 3. In a bold election-eve bid for white-middle-class support, Edward Kennedy announced he was appointing Allan Bakke as his personal physician. The next day, Kennedy won the Presidency by one electoral vote.
December 9. The ruling Ayatollah of Iran ordered that all foreign clocks within his Islamic republic were to have their hands cut off.
January 7. Personalized license plates, stating the owner's net worth, began appearing in Beverly Hills.
January 13. President-elect Edward Kennedy, fulfilling a campaign promise, announced that his first act as President would be to donate his liver to Senator Russell Long of Louisiana.
January 27. The First National Bank of Toledo was held up by a robber wielding a homemade atomic bomb.
January 29. President Edward Kennedy reacted badly to the removal of his liver. A tearful Bakke, who had both suggested and performed the operation, apologized to the American people with the words "I know, I know--it's two kidneys, one liver." The gallant Kennedy later resigned.
February 14. John, Paul, George and Ringo were kidnaped by a crazed fan, taken secretly to north London and forced to record a new single.
March 24. To liven up Congressional TV broadcasts, the House Ethics Committee voted to adopt a game-show format for its forthcoming hearings.
May 1. In a successful attempt to boost attendance, the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association announced the introduction of Team Contact Tennis.
June 2. The Beatles were released unharmed after a Winnetka, Illinois, teenager discovered that their new single, when played backward, revealed where they were being held.
June 22. The GAA announced its campaign for the rights of gay toddlers.
July 12. Nancy Lopez beat Sandra Post by five strokes in the first annual Patti Smith Open golf tournament.
September 4. Congressional Squares premiered on ABC. The show featured Senators and Congressmen trading accusations of wrongdoing in public office, garnered huge ratings and led to public demand for a punitive Congressional Code of Ethics.
October 10. Checker Motors Corporation, in conjunction with Runner's World magazine, introduced a line of metered rickshas to provide "healthy, economical, pollution-free" public transportation.
November 13. The first shipment of General Mills' Rice Helper arrived in Shanghai.
January 13. Disney Productions reached agreement with the bankrupt British government to turn the island nation into a theme park to be known as the United Magic Kingdom.
March 29. Masters and Johnson announced the discovery of two distinct types of male orgasm: the penile and the scrotal.
April 3. The Great Wall of China arrived in Washington, D.C., on the first leg of its record-breaking United States tour.
May 14. In line with public reaction to Congressional Squares, both Houses passed the most stringent ethics code ever known.
June 11. New Mexico instituted a novel means of capital punishment--the solar electric chair.
July 4. Pope John Paul II proclaimed, in his encyclical "ViaTVcom," that thenceforth Catholics could receive all seven sacraments over television.
August 13. In light of a precipitous drop in the white birth rate and a chronic shortage of adoptable children, the New York Commodity Exchange announced that it would start trading in baby futures.
September 7. Vietnamania, a nostalgic evocation of the war in Southeast Asia, opened on Broadway. The show included an Army physical at the door, the sale of K rations at concession stands, punji sticks in the aisles and the periodic strafing of the audience with AK-47s.
September 9. Vogue's fall fashions introduced "downward mobility," featuring curlers and polyester muumuus under the banner: "Halston Goes Queens."
September 23. In baseball's first in-game negotiation, star Yankee outfielder Gary "Stilts" Murchison made history when, in the ninth inning of a vital game against the Red Sox, he stopped 30 feet short of home plate and demanded a raise. Lawyers representing Murchison and the team hastily negotiated a new deal and the rangy slugger stumbled home with the winning run and a revised five-year contract.
October 1. Worried by forecasts of a small voter turnout in November, the Administration announced that any citizen showing up at the polls would get a free toaster.
October 10. Faced with a dismal earnings record, McDonald's decided to extend its franchising to individual households. The franchise included perky uniforms for Mom and Dad, a weekly quota of buns, burgers and special sauce and a pair of miniature golden arches for the front lawn.
October 17. Surgeon General Bakke released "unassailable evidence" that jogging, est, hang gliding and imported bottled mineral water caused cancer.
November 2. Thirteen percent of the country's voters showed up at the polls, approving a referendum that cut off most funds to the Federal Government and electing representatives of various lunatic-fringe groups--apparently the only people ethical enough for the new ethics code. The 98th Congress was immediately (continued on page 186) 1980-1989 (continued from page 125) dubbed the Congress of Nuts.
January 1. The United Nations International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm began at midnight.
January 4. Confirming a three-year trend, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced the inception of year-round baseball.
January 20. Led by a coalition of migrant farm workers, vegetarians and Vishnuites, both Houses passed a bill prohibiting the consumption of meat.
March 11. Yves Saint Laurent introduced his spring line--the "Chador Look." Within weeks, the historic costume of Islamic women was all the rage, and from New York to Los Angeles, veils of lamé, denim and mink obscured fashionable faces.
April 21. ABC and CBS officially informed NBC that it was no longer entitled to call itself a network.
May 16. The Mexican government demanded an end to the illegal flow of "whitebacks"--unemployed Americans from the depressed Southwest--into the booming oil towns of Mexico.
May 16. The Congress of Nuts, incensed by widespread violations of meat prohibition, empowered the Surgeon General to organize a paramilitary force of Surgeon Colonels, Surgeon Sergeants and Surgeon Corporals to enforce it.
July 11. Governor Mike Curb of California announced he was placing his governorship in a blind trust, in order to take over as head of the new Universal-Warner studio.
August 8. Evelyn Wood made television history by inaugurating the first course in speed viewing.
September 2. The Surgeon General launched a national program to spray meat and dairy herds with paraquat.
October 17. The International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm finally bore fruit. After several near misses earlier in the year, at 3:10 a.m. Greenwich mean time, more than two and a quarter billion participants "came together." Seismologists reported an immediate 0.42-degree shift in the polar axis; or, as a UN spokesman said, "The earth moved."
November 2. On the anniversary of its election, the Congress of Nuts voted to abolish the FBI and the IRS and to legalize cocaine and incest.
December 26. The Cincinnati Reds' dreams of being world champions ended in the snows of Riverfront Stadium. Reds catcher Mano "Manny" Manzano lost the ball in a drift and Yankee Willie Randolph snowshoed in from third with the winning run.
January 3. The New York Commodity Exchange announced that, due to a vast increase in volume of business, it had outgrown its facilities in the twin-tower World Trade Center and would construct a Third World Trade Center--an additional tower on a platform straddling the first two.
January 3. Congress reconvened and passed a resolution declaring 1984 the Year of the Total Recall. Inspired by Ralph Nader, the measure required the recall, for Federal inspection, of every item manufactured in the United States since the beginning of 1983.
January 8. The Administration announced that any citizen willing to run for Congress in November would get a free toaster.
January 19. A night watchman surprised three CBS employees crouched in the American Broadcasting Company's Programing Ideas room, rifling cabinets marked notions, ideas, concepts and treatments. The "Waltergate" scandal (an unfair sobriquet, in that Cronkite had no advance knowledge of the burglary scheme) had begun.
February 13. The New York Stock Exchange revealed that its total day's trading had been three odd-lot shares of G.M. For the first time, the Dow Jones hit .0001.
March 29. Bankrupted by nationwide casino gambling, Las Vegas defaulted on its municipal bonds.
April 2. A new magazine, Prime Times, documented the rapid growth of a new American subculture based on the illegal consumption of meat. Meat users, or "meatheads," were getting "broiled" and "marbled" at wild parties where they passed around communal hunks of meat, or "joints," and listened to albums such as The Rolling Stones' Between the Buns.
May 18. The A.S.P.C.A. noted that since the meat ban had been in effect, there had been a precipitate decline in the U. S. pet population.
June 4. Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced huge increases in its insurance premiums and that it was taking over the moribund IRS to collect them.
July 4. Universal-Warner released the most popular movie of the decade, 1984!, a musical version of the George Orwell novel--but with a happy ending. (The hero gets his girl, thanks to the benevolent intervention of Big Brother.) The immensely profitable film gave rise to many fads, including Big Brother cuddly dolls, and a craze for pet rats.
July 22. The Olympic Games began in Los Angeles with two new events added in honor of the host city: Hot Tubbing and Sharing the Experience.
September 10. Seeking a "power base," Muhammad Ali demanded--and got--induction into the 98 percent black and Hispanic Army.
October 1. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield Center for Disease Control in Atlanta announced that it had finally isolated the main causes of Legionnaires' disease. They were: wearing funny blue hats, drinking quarts of bourbon and holding disgusting personal opinions.
November 6. Three percent of the eligible voters elected Republicans Jack Kemp and William Roth President and Vice-President, and returned James Earl Carter to the House of Representatives. Carter donated his toaster to charity.
January 3. President-elect Kemp and Vice-President-elect Roth resigned upon learning that their salaries had been abolished by a referendum in the November election. Carter, elected Speaker of the House earlier in the day, was sworn in as President for a third term.
January 29. General Muhammad Ali was sworn in as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
February 4. In Las Vegas, The Sands, the Sahara and Caesars Palace were designated welfare hotels.
February 10. Marine biologists announced a breakthrough in communications with dolphins. Transcripts of dolphins' conversations revealed them to be extraordinarily boring, interested only in the shortest traveling time between various points and good places to eat that weren't "too oily."
February 19. A Federal court awarded the CBS television network, plus costs, to the American Broadcasting Company as compensatory and punitive damages in the trial resulting from the Waltergate burglary. For the first time, America had one commercial network--ABS.
March 15. Skyrocketing prices for petroleum-derived fabrics prompted designers to experiment with cheaper materials. Designer John Weitz unveiled a line of lightweight men's summer suits made of quarter-inch plasterboard.
April 16. Life magazine was once again revived, this time as Half-Life--designed to portray the positive aspects of widespread nuclear power. Its first cover featured a literally glowing nuclear family. This was believed to be the first periodical to which a lifetime subscription was cheaper than one for 12 months.
May 2. Contact finally came to horse racing with the inauguration of the immediately popular Kentucky Demolition Derby.
June 15. Steven Spielberg launched a new generation of American auteurs with his intensely personal Harrisburg, Mon Amour. The film, one of the first shot in 140mm, was set in central Pennsylvania and concerned the love of an out-of-work journalist for a badly mutated dairy herd.
July 4. Universal-Warner released its sequel to 1984!--1984! '85.
July 10. Chief Anchor Man, Walter Cronkite, held his first Congress Conference to bring members of both Houses up to date on the news. An angry demonstration erupted during the question period concerning Congressional salaries, and Cronkite had to be escorted from Washington by squads of network security police.
August 30. President Carter announced the amalgamation of the Federal space and railroad agencies into a new superagency: Spamtrak.
October 2. The Colon Bureau of the Intestinal Division of Blue Cross revealed a cure for cancer. All known forms could be neutralized by a substance secreted in the cranium of the baby harp seal, when it was struck repeatedly. The larger the baby seal's eyes, the bureau announced, the more potent the substance.
December 6. "Black Friday." The government of Chad's announcement of an oil strike in excess of a trillion barrels forced several other countries to disclose major finds--information they had been withholding from one another in hopes of cashing in on skyrocketing oil prices. A world-wide oil glut was confirmed and a global economic panic ensued.
February 23. A Congressman, refusing to give his name or district, revealed that Congress had been delinquent on its bills for the past two years and was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
February 28. The National Rifle Association went to court over a case involving the confiscation of a homemade nuclear device, arguing that the Second Amendment implied "the right to bear A-bombs." It won.
April 3. The ten largest corporations in the country, responding to world-wide economic depression, seceded from the Union and formed the United Multinationals (UM).
May 7. Spamtrak's first space shuttle was finally launched, 43 days behind schedule.
May 28. The new Columbia School of Gossip mailed acceptances to 247 of more than 3000 applicants.
June 23. Swamped by the demands of depression-related strikes, the American Brotherhood of Hired Pickets struck the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
July 11. The immensely popular military disco, Fort Bragg, opened in San Francisco. It catered to a new radical movement, which identified strongly with the impoverished black and Hispanic Army. Visitors to the disco performed precision drill in squads to the accompaniment of la sousa played by heavily amplified brass bands.
September 7. The decade's most popular TV series, The Nielsen Family, premiered on ABS. Ozzie and Harriet Nielsen and the two boys did nothing except watch TV and answer the videofone to tell "Mr. Brother" what they were watching. Nonetheless, the weekly excitement over what the Nielsens would pick on Friday became a national institution.
September 18. A new phenomenon in American life, that of single-kid bars--where young children could go to check out, and possibly go home with, a new set of parents--was mirrored in the smash-hit Univwarner-Foxomount production Looking for Mr. and Mrs. Goodbar.
October 20. ABS quietly dropped plans to cover the 1986 off-year elections after a poll showed 57 percent of the population equated the word Congressman with the phrase "welfare cheat."
January 1. Plainfield, New Jersey, was officially designated the nation's first ghost suburb.
January 26. President Carter made a rare visit to Washington, D.C., to deliver his State of the Union Guesstimate and was attacked by a crowd of several thousand Senators and Congressmen, all claiming to have won seats in the November elections.
March 2. Chip Smith, aged seven, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was granted a divorce from his parents.
April 14. Pope John Paul II announced a monumental program to "plunge the Church headlong into the 20th Century." Sweeping changes were introduced to ultramodernize the clergy. Priests were ordered thenceforth to wear DAs and peg-leg jeans, while nuns were required to sport ponytails and habits with poodle appliqués. Davy Crockett hats replaced the beretta in the celebration of the Mass, and proficiency in the Hula Hoop and singing backup became mandatory for confirmation. The Vatican also attributed a first miracle to Elvis--an amazing increase in the bustline of one Mrs. Duane Kitto of Baton Rouge.
May 11. The first apprehended posters of Congressmen and Senators appeared in banks in the District of Columbia.
June 1. Work started at the defunct Rancho Seco, California, nuclear-power station--to convert the plant into low-income housing.
June 15. Radical groups from across the nation converged on Washington, D.C., for a mass March for the Pentagon in support of the Army and a revived multibillion-dollar defense budget. Girls placed symbolic bullets in the rifles of black soldiers and Donna Summer premiered a military disco classic, We Shall Overrun.
August 4. Scientists confirmed that food shortages caused by world-wide climatic changes--in particular the desertification of Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas--were, indeed, the result of the International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm four years earlier.
August 28. The Blue Cross Secretary of State for Ligaments announced that researchers had successfully neutralized muscular dystrophy. A distraught Jerry Lewis, in turn, announced that come Labor Day, he would be on the air as usual with a coast-to-coast Natural Causes Telethon.
September 8. With the meat ban more honored in the breach than in the observance, the pigalo, a cross between a pig and a buffalo, was introducecd to the public. Although its meat was delicious, breeding problems proved insurmountable. The pigalo was irreversibly gay.
September 15. In a major sports special, it was reported that the dominance of major-league baseball by blacks had given rise to barnstorming white leagues with their own style, standings and celebrities, including one Ol' Valise Paige, a pitcher, whose rules for life were gems such as "Buy long, sell short."
September 30. Disney, Inc., premiered the popular Inner Wilderness Family--about a suburban family that flees civilization to homestead the South Bronx.
October 12. Deteriorating conditions on intercity flights led to uniformed cops' being stationed on all planes to prevent mugging and sexual assault.
November 3. A massive proliferation of humpback whales in the Hudson River dramatized a problem long feared by marine biologists. The whales, wildly promiscuous by nature, had multiplied at such a rate that ports and estuaries from Maine to Florida were clogged with the sexually aroused behemoths.
February 29. Broccoli was declared an endangered vegetable.
March 17. In a case brought by an out-of-work trucker against ABS, the Supreme Court unanimously established the principle of "right to treatment," by which any citizen had an implied right to have an idea for a TV show considered by the network.
March 23. The Paris spring look was governed by chronic food shortages in the U.S. and France. Fashions reflected what only a few could afford, and a craze for fatness was mirrored in the new grosse couture.
April 15. The Agents' Hall of Fame opened its doors in the old Hefner Mansion in Holmby Hills.
June 7. A Constitutional Convention, after almost eight years of deliberation, presented the nation with a new Bill of Rights, affirming, among other things, the inalienable right of all Americans to turn right on red.
July 23-August 15. The Peking Olympics were a complete failure, due largely to the apparent Chinese incomprehension of team sports. The Chinese fielded a 715-man soccer team, for instance, entirely filling their end of the pitch. They also leaped on one another's shoulders in basketball games to slam-dunk.
August 17. The Ivy League, bankrupted by declining enrollment, announced that it was willing to sell expansion franchises to the highest bidders. To add competition to this process, it split into the American Ivy League (AIL) and the National Ivy League (NIL).
September 10. Cheryl Czup of Hamtramck, Michigan, was named Miss America. Cheryl was 23 years old, 5'2" tall and weighed a luscious 413 pounds.
September 23. A new fast-food chain, Grubs 'n' Roots--offering "a whole third world of food"--opened across the U. S.
September 29. The first network election campaign--for Anchor Man of the United States--got under way when disaffected members of the ABS Eyewitness News staff announced a Draft John-John Kennedy campaign.
October 5. Manuel "Beanbag" de Goya became the first Puerto Rican heavyweight champion of the world, taking the title from Leon Spinks on points. Manuel weighed in at 279 pounds, stood 4'7" and had never been knocked down. He was billed as The Great Wide Hope.
November 8. After a hotly contested campaign in which more than $20,000,000 was spent in commercial time, Walter Cronkite was elected to a four-year term as Anchor Man of the United States of America.
January 17. Funds ran out in an ambitious project to develop the potatolo, a cross between a buffalo and a potato.
February 23. Walter Cronkite announced that Jimmy Carter had agreed to join the ABS Evening News staff as Vice-Anchor Man.
April 3. Pope John Paul II, in a move designed to counteract the utter failure of his modernization effort two years previously, issued the so-called Super Bull--proclaiming himself infallible in matters of faith, morals and sports.
June 5-9. Reports began to circulate in the press that a large cult calling itself Congress was wreaking havoc in the District of Columbia under the leader-ship of Mark Lane, who described himself as "duly elected President."
August 12. The United Multinationals announced they were moving to China.
August 24. General Ali reported that the Army was moving to occupy "hostile enclaves" in the cities and suburbs.
September 29. Louise Joy Brown, the original test-tube baby, proclaimed, on the occasion of her first menstruation, that she was the Messiah.
November 13. A cable was received at ABS News Headquarters from "President" Lane, charging that Congress was the object of deliberate persecution by the network. Anchor Man Cronkite told viewers he would personally investigate charges that Lane was resorting to mind control to enforce rigid rules of conduct.
November 17. A chronic world-wide shortage of paper was dramatized by the opening in Toledo, Ohio, of the first Kleenex laundry.
December 2. Anchor Man Cronkite, approaching the White House to seek an interview with self-styled "President" Mark Lane, was fatally wounded by three shots, fired from an upstairs window of the former Executive Mansion.
December 19. James Earl Carter was sworn in as the second Anchor Man of the United States of America.
"November 2, 1983: The Congress of Nuts abolished the FBI ... and legalized cocaine and incest."