December 7, 1990: Unauthorized Pyrotechnics

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(Pictured: Madonna, in the elaborate getup she wore for the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1990.)

December 7, 1990, was a Friday. The top headline this morning regards Saddam Hussein’s surprise announcement yesterday that he would release more than 2,000 foreigners held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait, one of the objectives set down by the UN for ending the four-month old Persian Gulf crisis. There’s no indication of a timetable, but Iraq’s UN ambassador says he hopes the captives will be home by Christmas. Cable TV mogul Ted Turner and actress Jane Fonda announce their engagement. (They will marry next year and divorce in 2001.) Actress Joan Bennett, best known for her film-noir roles in the 1940s and an Emmy-nominated performance on Dark Shadows, dies at age 80. Soul singer Dee Clark, best known for the 1961 hit “Raindrops,” dies at age 52. Future baseball star Yasiel Puig is born. Six games are played in the National Hockey League tonight; yesterday, the league announced that new franchises, to be named the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators, will begin play in the fall of 1992. Nine games are played in the NBA tonight. The Utah Jazz snap the Los Angeles’ Lakers eight-game winning streak with a 101-79 victory. Karl Malone leads all scorers with 27; Magic Johnson leads the Lakers with 20.

On TV tonight, ABC wins the night with Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, the sitcom Going Places (about young TV comedy writers in Los Angeles) and the newsmagazine 20/20. CBS counters with a Garfield special, a repeat of A Claymation Christmas Carol, Over My Dead Body (a detective drama starring Edward Woodward and Jessica Lundy), and Dallas. Fox airs America’s Most Wanted and an episode of Against the Law, a legal comedy/drama set in Boston and starring Michael O’Keefe. NBC’s lineup includes Quantum Leap, Night Court, Wings, and a news special following homicide detectives on the job in Houston. Later tonight, Johnny Carson welcomes singer Patti LaBelle. The top new movie this weekend is The Rookie, starring Charlie Sheen and directed by Clint Eastwood; it will place third at the box office behind Home Alone and Misery and ahead of Dances With Wolves and Three Men and a Little Lady.

Fleetwood Mac wraps up its eight-month, worldwide Behind the Mask tour in Inglewood, California. It’s the last show for guitarist Rick Vito, and the last for a while for Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks. Poison and Warrant play the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago. Level 42 plays Hammersmith Odeon in London, and Jane’s Addiction plays the Utah State Fair Coliseum in Salt Lake City. New Kids on the Block wrap up a two-night stand in Providence, and the Go-Gos play Dallas. A death-metal show in Milwaukee comes to an abrupt end when one band’s unauthorized pyrotechnics sets their drums on fire and blows up the drum riser. On the new Billboard Hot 100 to be released tomorrow, “Because I Love You” by Stevie B goes to #1, knocking last week’s #1, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston, to #2. “From a Distance” by Bette Midler is up to #3 from #5 last week. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Tom’s Diner” by DNA with Suzanne Vega and “Justify My Love” by Madonna, which blasts to #10 from #23 on the strength of recent publicity. MTV has already decided not to air its controversial video; earlier in the week, Madonna appeared on ABC’s Nightline, which showed the video and grilled her about it. “Justify My Love” makes the biggest move within the Top 40 by a longshot; the next biggest mover is Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do Without You,” up seven spots to #24. To the Extreme by Vanilla Ice marks its fifth week atop the Billboard 200 album chart.

Perspective From the Present: “Because I Love You” is one of the more inexplicable #1 hits of all time. It’s a generic R&B love ballad with absolutely nothing interesting about it, but it would spend the rest of the holiday season, four weeks in all, at #1. That was my first holiday season at the little AM/FM combo in Clinton, Iowa, which I had joined in March. I don’t know how happy I was to be there at the time; I felt as though I should be further up the market ladder in the year I turned 30. The experience looks better in retrospect, however. I had a good boss committed to doing good radio, and he left me alone to do my job, which was not always my experience.

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April 15, 1990: Lead You Back

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(Pictured: Greta Garbo, 1931.)

April 15, 1990, is Easter Sunday. The nuclear-armed nations of India and Pakistan remain nose-to-nose over the disputed province of Kashmir. At Cape Canaveral, preparations continue for the April 24 launch of the space shuttle Discovery, which will deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Eruptions continue at Mount Redoubt, a volcano in Alaska. This series of eruptions will be the second-costliest in American history behind Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The New York Times publishes data showing that the median price of a house in the United States was $95,400 in February. A world record for tallest sand sculpture (17 feet, 5 3/4 inches) is set in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia.

Movie icon Greta Garbo dies at age 89, and U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii dies at age 73; future Harry Potter actress Emma Watson is born. The top movies at the box office this weekend are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pretty Woman, The Hunt for Red October, and Ernest Goes to Jail. The Miss Universe pageant is held in Los Angeles; the winner is Miss Norway, Mona Grudt; Miss USA Carole Gist is first runnerup. Payne Stewart wins the MCI Heritage Golf Classic, but Greg Norman continues to lead the world golf rankings; Nick Faldo, who won the Masters last Sunday, is ranked second. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum tops the paperback best-seller lists.

The sketch comedy series In Living Color premieres on Fox. Also on Fox tonight, The Outsiders, a series based on the S. E. Hinton novel, the 21 Jump Street spinoff Booker starring Richard Grieco, and The Simpsons. NBC airs an episode of The Magical World of Disney. In the first-ever Sunday night baseball game broadcast on ESPN, the Montreal Expos beat the New York Mets 3 to 1. On MTV, 120 Minutes features videos by Depeche Mode, the Cure, and Stone Roses. On the radio, The Dr. Demento Show features music and comedy bits about television, but the top song on the weekly Funny Five is, once again, “Fish Heads” by Barnes and Barnes.

Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan play in suburban Detroit. Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour continues its opening stand in Tokyo. Paul McCartney plays Miami, and Fleetwood Mac plays Sydney, Australia. Janet Jackson plays Houston. On the current Billboard Hot 100, the new #1 song is “I’ll Be Your Everything” by Tommy Page, taking out Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back,” which falls to #5. Also among the Top 5: “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” by Jane Child, “All Around the World” by Lisa Stansfield, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. The lone new song in the Top 10 is “I Wanna Be Rich” by Calloway, moving to #6 from #11. The highest-debuting song of the week within the Top 40 is “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” by Heart, which comes in at #26 from #41. Madonna’s “Vogue” makes its Hot 100 debut at #39.

The new jock at a tiny radio station in small-town Iowa has to go back to work tomorrow. He’s been there about three weeks. It’s a job he needed more than he wanted, although it will eventually have its satisfactions.

February 10, 1990: Knocked Out

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(Pictured: Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville.)

February 10, 1990, is a Saturday. South African president F. W. de Klerk announces that Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for 27 years, will be released tomorrow. In Tokyo (where it’s already tomorrow), Buster Douglas knocks out heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. On the South Pacific island of Java, a volcano named Mt. Kelud erupts. NASA’s Galileo probe flies by the planet Venus, taking advantage of the gravity of the solar system’s inner planets to whip it toward its ultimate destination, Jupiter. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, two gunmen open up in a bowling alley, killing four and wounding three more. Decades later, the crime will remain unsolved. The Idaho lottery gives away a $2 million jackpot.

NBC-TV’s lineup tonight includes The Golden Girls, a Columbo TV movie called Agenda for Murder, and Saturday Night Live hosted by Quincy Jones. Eric Clapton plays the Royal Albert Hall in London with a full orchestra. The second part of the show features a two-movement piece called “Concerto for Electric Guitar.” Phish plays Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and Diana Ross plays Detroit. Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” knocks Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” from the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 1o0. Also in the Top 10: Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” (#3), “Janie’s Got a Gun” by Aerosmith (#4), “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” by Chicago (#6), and Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” (#9). The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles (#39 to #28). The highest debut within the Hot 100 is Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville’s duet on “All My Life” (#47), the followup to “Don’t Know Much,” which is in its 20th week on the Hot 100 and still at #34.

In Iowa, a radio jock shows up for his Saturday shift as usual. It had been a late night the night before—a bunch of his colleagues had gotten together to bid farewell to a couple of sales reps who had been fired earlier in the week. What he doesn’t know as he arrives is that he’s about to join them.

Perspective From the Present:  My shift was supposed to end at 6:00 that day; when the PD showed up at 5:45, there was only one reason why he’d be there on a Saturday. (The story is told in detail here.) I was out of work for about six weeks (unemployed on my 30th birthday, as it turned out); the job I found turned out to be fun for three years, if not especially remunerative. And my radio career went on.