December 25, 1989: Storm Front

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(Pictured: Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner, together again.)

December 25, 1989, was a Monday. Much of the United States is gripped by record cold. Fifty-six cities have set low temperature records in recent days. Temperatures between 20 and 40 below were recorded across the Midwest late last week, although they moderated a little in time for Christmas. Parts of the South are experiencing their first white Christmas in 100 years. Tallahassee, Florida, gets a trace of snow today, and in Miami, for the second day in a row, the mercury falls below freezing. Citrus crops have been largely wiped out across the South. Yesterday, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, got 14 inches of snow, and elsewhere in the state, snowdrifts are as much as eight feet high. At least 77 deaths have been blamed on the cold since December 15, including that of New Orleans mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial, who suffered cardiac arrest last night after an asthma attack induced by the cold. Newspapers around the country this weekend carried a review of a new book by climatologist Stephen Schneider titled Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?

Since the opening of the Berlin Wall in November, Communist governments in eastern Europe have been reforming and/or falling. In Romania, revolution against the government of Nicolae Ceausescu began eight days ago. On Friday, Ceausescu was deposed as president, and he fled his palace after it was invaded by protesters. On Saturday, he was captured in the Romanian city of Targoviste. Today, after being convicted of illegal gathering of wealth and genocide by a revolutionary court, Ceausescu and his wife are executed by firing squad. Last Wednesday, a United States force of 28,000 troops and 300 military aircraft invaded Panama. The goal of Operation Just Cause is to capture Panamanian president Manuel Noriega, neutralize military units loyal to him, and protect American lives and property. Today, many of the military objectives have been accomplished, although fighting continues. Noriega has yet to be nabbed; yesterday he sought asylum at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.

Billy Martin, who had five different stints managing the New York Yankees between 1975 and 1988, dies in a traffic accident at age 61. The college bowl season continues today; 16 games will be played between now and New Year’s Day. Michigan State beats Hawaii 33-13 in the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu. In the annual Christmas Day Blue/Gray college all-star game in Montgomery, Alabama, the Gray team, made up of players from southern colleges, beats the Blue, 28-10. The National Football League regular season ends tonight. The Minnesota Vikings beat the Cincinnati Bengals 29-21, knocking them out of the AFC playoffs and taking the last available NFC playoff spot from the Green Bay Packers. Yesterday, the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-10, ending the Cowboys’ dismal 1-and-15 season. The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are the top seeds in the playoffs, which will begin with wild-card games on New Year’s Eve.

ABC’s Monday Night Football (which is preceded by an episode of MacGyver) is the only program on network TV tonight that isn’t a repeat, and it wins the night. CBS airs six sitcoms in a row: Major Dad, The Famous Teddy Z, Murphy Brown, Designing Women, Newhart, and Doctor Doctor. NBC fills primetime with the 1965 movie The Sound of Music. Fox presents 21 Jump Street and Alien Nation. At Z100 in New York, “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic is the new #1 song, knocking Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to #3. “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins is #2. Also in the Top 10: Michael Bolton, New Kids on the Block, and Milli Vanilli. There’s little movement on the chart: Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” makes the biggest move, up four spots to #17. “Janie’s Got a Gun” by Aerosmith debuts in the Top 30 at #25. The #1 album in New York again this week is Billy Joel’s Storm Front.

Perspective From the Present: On Christmas Eve 1989, my wife and sister-in-law and I sat in my parents’ living room reading, as Mother made dinner in the kitchen while Dad was out milking his cows. Christmas music played softly on the radio. After a while my sister-in-law piped up, “It’s too quiet. In my family, there’s always an argument or a fight on Christmas.” So—of course—Ann and I pretended to have one to make her feel more at home. I hope that your Christmas has been quiet. Or noisy, whichever you prefer.

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September 26, 1989: The Clincher

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(Pictured: Milli Vanilli. Are they really singing in this picture? Let me answer that question with a question: who cares?)

September 26, 1989, was a Tuesday. The morning newspapers headline stories about forthcoming elections in Nicaragua, in which the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega will try to hang on to power, and about Barbara Bush’s visit to the first school in the nation named for her husband, George Bush Elementary in Midland, Texas. The First Lady learned that the school’s kindergartners have named their classroom’s pet pig after the president, and their hermit crab after vice-president Dan Quayle. Today, the human Quayle arrives in the Philippines for an official visit, hours after Communist rebels kill two Americans at a military base. The Dalai Lama, on a visit to New York, meets with a group of six scholars representing four different branches of Judaism.

“Compatibility of Cervical Spine Braces with MR Imaging: A Study of Nine Nonferrous Devices” by David Clayman, Marcia Murakami, and Frederick Vines, is accepted for publication by the American Journal of Neuroradiology and will be published in the March/April 1990 issue. The Chicago Cubs clinch their second National League Eastern Division championship in five years with a 3-2 win over Montreal. In today’s Calvin and Hobbes strip, Rosalyn the babysitter asks to be paid in advance, and in Dilbert, Dogbert gives dating advice. The new TV season continues with the premiere of Living Dolls on ABC. It’s a spinoff from Who’s the Boss and airs immediately after its parent show, followed by Roseanne. Among the stars of Living Dolls are unknowns Halle Berry and Leah Remini; amid terrible reviews, the show will survive for only 12 episodes. Also on ABC tonight, the Jackie Mason/Lynn Redgrave sitcom Chicken Soup. On CBS tonight: Rescue: 911; on NBC: Matlock.

Paul McCartney plays Drammen, Norway. It’s the first show of his 1989-1990 world tour, which will continue (with a few breaks) through next July. Deborah Harry continues her “Def, Dumb, and Blonde” tour at Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut. Tesla plays Rockford, Illinois. After the Rolling Stones played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, the previous two nights (and turned down an invitation to visit the White House), Bill Wyman and Ron Wood are spotted in a DC club with Republican party chairman Lee Atwater. At WMJQ in Buffalo, New York, the hair-metal ballad “Heaven” by Warrant will hit #1 on the station survey due out tomorrow, taking out “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” by Milli Vanilli. Young MC’s “Bust a Move” is at #2, and the hottest record on the survey, “Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson, moves to #3 from #11. Also new in the Top 10: “Listen to Your Heart” by Roxette and “Partyman” by Prince. Debut songs include “Love Shack” by the B52s and “Don’t Know Much” by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville.

Perspective From the Present: The Cubs’ pennant-clincher was news enough for me on this day, although the memory of it isn’t nearly so vivid as the 1984 clincher. The Cubs would go on to lose the National League championship series to the San Francisco Giants four games to one; the Giants would lose the famous earthquake-interrupted World Series to the Oakland Athletics. I was working as a beautiful-music DJ in the fall of 1989, so I wasn’t playing any of the big hits of the week, although “Don’t Know Much” would have fit. Nevertheless, it was hard to escape Milli Vanilli, and I admit I rather liked “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” long before we knew that Rob and Fab were fraudulent. But the two songs on the air then I’d most like to hear right now are “The Way to Your Heart,” by the Belgian duo Soulsister, on which they create a potent earworm over a backing track Motown’s Funk Brothers would have admired, and Poco’s “Call It Love,” a comeback/throwback that the Eagles would have admired.

May 20, 1989: Forever Your Girl

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(Pictured: young Gilda, circa 1970.)

May 20, 1989, is a Saturday. It’s the last day of National Osteoporosis Prevention Week. Pro-democracy protests continue in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square; Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping declares martial law, and Chinese authorities pull the plug on TV networks covering the protests. Former Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner dies of ovarian cancer at age 42. Steve Martin hosts the season finale of SNL that night with musical guest Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; the show pays tribute to Gilda by showing “Dancing in the Dark,” a 1977 dance sketch with Martin. Michael Jordan hits two free throws with four seconds left to give the Chicago Bulls a 113-111 win over the New York Knicks, wrapping up the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals four games to two. Infielder Manny Trillo, who played 17 seasons for seven teams, appears in his final major-league game — the Cincinnati Reds release him a week later. In English soccer, Liverpool defeats Everton 3-2 in extra time to win the F.A. Cup. Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence wins the Preakness Stakes over rival Easy Goer by a nose. William E. Thomas catches a world-record-tying weakfish in Delaware Bay that weighs 19 pounds, two ounces.

On TV tonight: Cops, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the horror anthology Freddy’s Nightmares, and The Munsters Today. Stevie Nicks is the subject of a cover story in this week’s edition of the British music newspaper Record Mirror. Phish plays a high school gym in Northfield, Massachusetts; Nitzer Ebb plays Detroit; Big Country plays Scarborough, England; Cinderella plays Lexington, Kentucky; Pink Floyd plays Monza, Italy; and Stevie Ray Vaughan plays San Diego.

The new Billboard Hot 100 is topped by “Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul. Also in the Top 5: “Real Love” by Jody Watley at #2, last week’s #1, “I’ll Be There for You” by Bon Jovi at #3, Donny Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” at #4, and soap star Michael Damian’s cover of the David Essex hit “Rock On” at #5. The highest-debuting song within the 40 is Donna Summer’s “This Time I Know It’s for Real” at #28. Milli Vanilli’s “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” is new at #30. Debuting on the Hot 100 at #62 is a throwback—the Doobie Brothers’ “The Doctor,” which features original Doobies lead vocalist Tom Johnston and sounds like “China Grove” turned sideways. At a radio station in Iowa, a jock who would pay cash money for the privilege of playing one Doobie Brothers record instead of the Anne Murray, Andy Williams, and Barbra Streisand records he has to play all day begins to realize that just maybe what he’s doing with his life isn’t what he should be doing with his life.

November 30, 1989: Another Day in Paradise

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(Pictured: George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev get along famously during their December 1989 summit in Malta.)

November 30, 1989, was a Thursday. President George Bush speaks at a Rose Garden departure ceremony before his summit meeting with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta, which will be on Saturday and Sunday. He also signs the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, which, among other things, raises the pay of senators and representatives. Bush also issues a statement in advance of the second World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow. Prominent West German banker Alfred Herrhausen dies in a bomb blast. The case will never be solved. A story seen in newspapers around the country recaps the six-month 1989 hurricane season, which officially ends today. Seven hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during 1989, including Hugo, which was the costliest storm in American history. Early this morning, Linda Cortile Napolitano, age 41, is abducted by aliens from the roof of her Manhattan apartment, or so she will claim. UFO researcher Budd Hopkins will find several people who say they saw it happen; one of them is reportedly UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who tells Hopkins he obviously can’t be quoted regarding the incident.

The New York Yankees sign free-agent outfielder Mel Hall, who has spent the last four-plus seasons with the Cleveland Indians. Six games are played in the NBA; the Los Angeles Lakers run their league-best record to 11-and-2 with a 109-93 win over Sacramento. The NHL schedule has seven games; Montreal pulls into a tie for the league’s best record with Buffalo when the Canadiens defeat the cellar-dwelling Quebec Nordiques 6-2. On TV tonight, ABC’s lineup includes the revived Mission: Impossible, the western drama The Young Riders, and an edition of the newsmagazine Prime Time Live. CBS starts the night with its own newsmagazine, 48 Hours, followed by the political drama Top of the Hill and Knots Landing. But NBC will win the night by a large margin with The Cosby Show, Ann Jillian, a sitcom that stars the titular actress as a New York widow relocated to small-town northern California with her kids, Cheers, Dear John starring Judd Hirsch, and L.A. Law. In today’s Peanuts strip, Snoopy is demanding.

In the current edition of Rolling Stone, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead sits for an extended interview. Also in the magazine, Billy Joel’s new Storm Front gets a positive review from writer John McAlley. The Rolling Stones play the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Phish plays Boston, Squeeze plays Providence, and Van Morrison plays the Beacon Theater in New York City. Black Sabbath, with Tony Iommi the only original member remaining, plays Leningrad in the Soviet Union, and the B-52s play the Fox Theater in Detroit.

On the Billboard Hot 100, the #1 song  is “Blame It on the Rain” by Milli Vanilli, which knocks last week’s #1, “When I See You Smile” by Bad English, to #2. The B-52’s “Love Shack” holds at #3; “The Way That You Love Me” by Paula Abdul holds at #4; “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel is up to #5. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Don’t Know Much” by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville at #9 and “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins at #10. The latter is up 12 spots from last week, the biggest mover within the Top 40 along with “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, which jumps from #34 to #22. The highest debuting new song in the Top 40 is “Swing the Mood” by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers at #34. The highest debut within the Hot 100 is Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” at #54.

Perspective From the Present: If we’re honest about it, most of our days are fairly mundane. Stuff happens, but in a day or two we’ll have trouble remembering it. November 30, 1989, looks like it was one of those days. I was working at the elevator-music station, and I suspect that by this time our new program director had arrived in town, or was on his way, with all of the upheaval he would bring on a less-mundane days to come.