October 6, 1981: Sensation

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(Pictured: Pat Benatar, circa 1981.)

October 6, 1981, was a Tuesday. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, reviewing a parade in Cairo, is assassinated by Muslim extremists after 11 years in office. President Reagan makes a brief televised speech about the Sadat assassination after attending a luncheon in honor of the visiting prime minister of Thailand. He also proclaims October 9 to be Leif Erickson Day. The Progressive Conservative Party wins a majority in general elections in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The Mall of Memphis opens in Memphis, Tennessee.

The major-league baseball playoffs open, with an unusual format made necessary by the players’ strike earlier this season. Nolan Ryan of the Houston Astros outduels rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers in one game; in the other, Oakland defeats Kansas City. Two more series will open tomorrow: New York Yankees at Milwaukee and Philadelphia at Montreal. Actor Gary Coleman tells producers of Diff’rent Strokes that he wants a new contract; he will not appear on new episodes of the show until the dispute is resolved. Shows on TV tonight include Hart to Hart, Three’s Company, and the TV movie Return of the Beverly Hillbillies.

The Grateful Dead play the Rainbow Theatre in London, AC/DC plays Newcastle, England, and Motorhead plays live on the BBC. The Dead Kennedys play Rome, and the Police play Russelsheim, Germany. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks, and the Joe Ely Band share a bill in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Pat Benatar plays Austin, Texas. At WLS in Chicago, the top album is Tattoo You by the Rolling Stones, which has knocked Journey’s Escape from #1. The live album Nine Tonight by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band leaps from #12 to #5; Dan Fogelberg’s The Innocent Age also enters the Top 10, moving to #8 from #25. The soundtrack of the R-rated, animated sci-fi movie Heavy Metal is at #11. Two songs from the soundtrack are new on the WLS singles chart: Devo’s cover of “Working in the Coal Mine” is at #40 and the title song, recorded by Don Felder of the Eagles, is at #41.

Perspective From the Present: It was the fall of my senior year in college. A group of us decided to watch the afternoon baseball playoff game in the student center bar. At 6:00, we decided to skip our evening class to watch the second game and drink more beer. At 10:00, my girlfriend (now The Mrs.) pulled me out of the bar, reminding me that I had to be on the air the next morning in Dubuque at 5AM. Because she was sure I would never get there by myself, she put me to bed on her couch, rousted me at 3AM, and drove me to work. I was still half-intoxicated, and the other half of me was hung over. I lasted until 7:30, when a friendly colleague took pity on me and sent me home. It is to the man’s eternal credit that he didn’t report my condition to our boss, because I would surely have been fired, and justifiably so. But he didn’t like the guy any more than I did, so it remained our little secret.


2 thoughts on “October 6, 1981: Sensation

  1. I wish you’d been making tape that morning; I wonder what you sounded like.
    In your travels, have you ever heard a working professional DJ whom you suspected of being under the influence?


  2. Back in Top 40 days, lots of them were. Chicago’s John Landecker freely admits, for example, that his manic style was partly due to cocaine. A radio friend of mine liked to tell the story of an FM guy he knew in the 60s, possessor of an impossibly cool radio voice, who would be so stoned he could barely sit up straight, but when it came time for him to talk on the air, you’d never be able to tell.


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