January 15, 1991: In the Heat of the Night

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(Pictured: An American family watches war news from the Persian Gulf.)

January 15, 1991, was a Tuesday. Today, Iraq fails to meet a UN-mandated deadline for withdrawing 545,000 troops from Kuwait. They’re faced by over 800,000 international coalition forces, the majority of which are from the United States. Yesterday, UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar returned from meetings with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and told reporters he sees little hope that war in the Persian Gulf can be averted. Pope John Paul II sends Saddam a letter urging him to “take courageous steps which can be the beginning of a true journey towards peace.” A partial eclipse of the sun is visible in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. In Texas, Democrat Ann Richards takes the oath of office as governor.

Today’s Dilbert strip features an appearance by Dan Quayle’s brain. ABC’s primetime lineup includes Who’s the Boss?, Head of the Class, Roseanne (which wins the ratings race for the night), Coach, and thirtysomething. CBS airs Rescue 911 and the theatrical movie The Presidio. NBC’s lineup includes Matlock, In the Heat of the Night, and Law and Order. At the movies Home Alone continues to dominate the box office along with Awakenings starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. Pairings are set for the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend: the Los Angeles Raiders will play at Buffalo and the New York Giants will play at San Francisco. The NBA’s top team, the Boston Celtics, are 29-and-6 and have the night off. Among the eight games played tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers beat Minnesota 132-117, running their second-best record to 32-and-7. Clyde Drexler leads Portland with 32 points. The league’s third-best team, San Antonio, loses to Utah 124-102. The league’s worst team, the Denver Nuggets, drops to 7-and-29 after getting hammered by Seattle, 146-99.

A new version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” recorded with war in the Persian Gulf looming, is officially released. Lennon’s son Sean and Lenny Kravitz rewrote the original lyrics, which are sung by artists recording as the Peace Choir. They include Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau, Cyndi Lauper, Little Richard, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Terence Trent D’Arby, Tom Petty, Adam Ant, and others. On the Billboard Hot 100, “Justify My Love” by Madonna is in its second week at #1. “Because I Love You” by Stevie B holds at #2. Only one song is new in the Top 10: “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C&C Music Factory. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston falls out of the Top 10. There’s practically no movement anywhere: Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” and “I’m Not in Love” by Will to Power make the biggest jumps in the Top 20, three places each (#7 to #4 and #20 to #17 respectively). There’s only one new song in the Top 40: “Love Makes Things Happen” by Pebbles at #40. Only three new songs debut on the Hot 100; the highest is “Iesha” by Another Bad Creation at #78. AC/DC plays Portland, Oregon, Guns ‘n’ Roses plays Rio de Janeiro, and Anthrax plays Montreal.

Perspective From the Present: On this day, The Mrs. and I had a new arrival in the house. We had adopted Abby, our first cat, shortly after the holidays. For a while, we left the radio on and tuned to my station while we were gone so she would hear my voice throughout the day. Like most Americans, we went to bed on the night of the 15th figuring we’d be at war pretty soon, maybe before we got up Wednesday morning. That day, I went to work as usual, doing my afternoon show at the little station in Clinton, Iowa. The bombing started in the Gulf a little before 6:00 that night, and what had been called Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. After I read the first couple of bulletins, we joined network news coverage and let it roll for the next 18 hours or so. Although there wasn’t much for me to do, I remember staying at the station until midnight, partly because we needed to have an operator there, but partly because I didn’t want to be anywhere else while history was being made.

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One thought on “January 15, 1991: In the Heat of the Night

  1. I was glued to the TV watching news coverage of the war, as well. Prior to that, I was experiencing voice problems since about Christmas and was told by a doctor to undergo complete voice rest. I was told not to speak for two weeks. So, I didn’t have much to do at the radio station I worked at. I did some paperwork and wound and assembled lots of carts while turning my attention to the War in Iraq.

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