June 8, 1984: Press Your Luck

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(Pictured: Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Jerry Garcia, on stage in the summer of 1984.)

June 8, 1984, was a Friday. Eight Midwestern states are hit by severe weather. Shortly before 1AM, an F5 tornado strikes Barneveld, Wisconsin, about 30 miles west of Madison. Ninety percent of the village is damaged or destroyed and nine people are killed. Other less-intense tornadoes strike five other locations in south central Wisconsin. President Reagan is in London for an economic summit. Today, CBS Sports executive Neal Pilson tells journalists that of all the pro sports, the NBA is the only one whose ratings haven’t eroded in recent years. Tonight, the Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-103 to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals. The game on CBS is beaten in the TV ratings by a rerun of the ABC detective series Matt Houston. With Boston suffering through a heat wave and no air-conditioning in Boston Garden, the courtside temperature at gametime is 98 degrees.

On the game show Press Your Luck, an episode is broadcast in which contestant Michael Larson figures out a pattern that helps him beat the game; he wins over $110,000 before voluntarily stopping play. The show had been taped in May; producers could find nothing in the rules that let them out of paying him what was then the biggest prize ever won on a TV game show. Jamie Farr and Vicki Lawrence wrap up the week as celebrity guests on the game show Body Language. Other game shows on the air today include Family Feud, The New $25,000 Pyramid (with guest stars Linda Kelsey and Harry Anderson), and The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour.

New in theaters this weekend are Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Sigourney Weaver, and Gremlins. They will compete with the previous weekend’s top attractions, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In Houston, a concert at the Astrodome billed as the Texxas Jam stars Rush, .38 Special, Ozzy Osbourne, Bryan Adams, and Gary Moore. Billy Joel plays Wembley Arena in London, Joe Jackson plays Kansas City, the Grateful Dead plays Sacramento, and David Gilmour plays Chicago. San Francisco morning DJ Dr. Don Rose celebrates his 2,500th show at KFRC.

On the new Billboard Hot 100 due out tomorrow, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper knocks “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” by Deniece Williams from the #1 spot. All but two of the top 10 singles were there last week; Laura Branigan’s “Self Control” and “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters are new at #9 and #10. Those two songs replace “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins, which drops to #12, and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, which is down to #16. The hottest record within the Top 40 is “Legs” by ZZ Top at #25, up 11 spots from the previous week. Four songs are new in the Top 40: “Doctor Doctor” by the Thompson Twins at #32, “No Way Out” by Jefferson Starship at #35, “When Doves Cry” by Prince at #36 (in only its second week on the Hot 100), and “Don’t Walk Away” by Rick Springfield at #39. The highest debut on the Hot 100 is Elton John’s “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” at #49.

At WKAI in Macomb, Illinois, two months after getting hired, the new guy is working a split shift. He’s on the AM side from 11AM to 1PM  and he comes back to tend the automated soft-rock FM from 7 to midnight. He suspects this isn’t going to be the case for long—once the station’s new owner takes over, he expects a better shift and plenty of responsibility to go with it, but the sale isn’t final yet. In years to come, several songs popular in June 1984 will take him back to those night shifts, putting in his time alone in the building, at a station in the middle of nowhere, because that’s what young radio guys do.

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May 8, 1984: Grace Under Pressure

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(Pictured: Joanie loves Chachi, presumably.)

May 8, 1984, is a Tuesday. The Soviet Union announces that it will boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Gary Hart wins Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Indiana; Walter Mondale wins Maryland and North Carolina. An American clergyman, Benjamin Weir, is kidnapped in Beirut; he will be freed in 16 months as part of the Reagan Administration’s covert arms-for-hostages swap with Islamic militants. The going rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rises to 15.5 percent; the prime interest rate is now 12.5 percent. Congressional Gold Medals are awarded to Harry Truman (in honor of his 100th birthday today), Lady Bird Johnson, and author Elie Wiesel. Tonight, the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers start their game at 7:00. They’ll still be playing at 1AM when the game is suspended after 17 innings; it will be finished on the night of the 9th with the Sox finally winning 7-6 in 25 innings, the longest game in American League history. Kirby Puckett gets four hits in his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins. He will be named the American League Rookie of the Year at season’s end, and will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Top movies at the box office: Breakin’, Sixteen Candles, Romancing the Stone, and Police Academy. Set to open this coming weekend: The Natural and Firestarter. On TV tonight, Joanie and Chachi get married on a special hour-long episode of Happy Days. Also on TV tonight: The A-Team.

The New York Times reports that Larry Stock, who wrote “Blueberry Hill,” has died at age 87. The Grateful Dead plays Eugene, Oregon and INXS plays Hamburg, Germany. Rush opens the Grace Under Pressure tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Cure plays London. Album releases today include the compilation Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers and Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins tops the Cash Box singles chart for a third week; Lionel Richie’s “Hello” holds at #2. Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” leaps from #20 to #11. Other strong upward movers from the chart: “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (#33 to #20) and “The Reflex” by Duran Duran (#42 to #30). “Stay the Night” by Chicago is the highest-debuting new song in the Top 100 at #57.  Also new: Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” (at #73), “King of Suede” by Weird Al Yankovic (at #87), and “I Can Dream About You” by Dan Hartman (at #89). At a small radio station in Illinois, the new guy is working part-time nights; he will eventually graduate to a full-time gig, a split shift that has him working the noon hour and nights. It’s the sort of thing you can do when you’re 24 years old, you really need the job—and you really love radio.

Perspective From the Present: Less than three years into the video age, the form had already developed its own clichés. Several videos for this week’s top hits require a viewer to wait through a scene-setting prelude before getting to the music. This particular cliché often revealed that being able to sing is not the same as being able to act (Steve Perry, I’m talkin’ to you), although the material they’re given (whoever scripted the “Oh Sherrie” video, I’m talkin’ to you) doesn’t always help.