The ’80s aren’t quite over yet, so is it too early to start remembering them? Not when you consider how much mental and emotional terrain we’ve covered. “It’s been quite a 10 years, from Evil Empire to glasnost,” says senior editor Eric Levin, who hatched the idea of this retrospective and had overall responsibility for it. “It was a time of mixed messages and jarring contrasts: gene-splicing and fundamentalism, junk bonds and homelessness, cappuccino gelato and meat loaf.”
Levin and his staff began reliving the ’80s in May. Picture researcher Sarah Rozen culled half a million images, rediscovering a few things. “When Madonna first came on the scene, she still had a bit of baby fat,” says Rozen. “She looked like a teenybopper. But that was short-lived. Madonna changes practically weekly.” Research for the humorous photo of the Couch Potato (page 63) began with photographer Raeanne Rubenstein dumping a pile of spuds—all different shapes and varieties—on picture editor Holly Holden’s desk. “We wanted to find just the right one to give to the costumer as a model for the suit,” says Holden. “We kept saying, ‘If anybody comes in here, they’re going to think we’re nuts!’ ”
Under the direction of chief reporter Lee Powell, reporters Martha K. Babcock, Susan Kittenplan, Denise Lynch and Ann Guerin were put on details detail (the hardcover weight of Stephen King’s It: 3½ pounds; per capita pasta consumption last year: 17.1 pounds—or the equivalent of just under five copies of It). “One thing that struck us is that much of the technology we used’ to produce this issue wasn’t in wide use 10 years ago,” says Powell. “We checked a lot of facts by fax.” Equally telling, she adds, was “how much this issue kept coming around to money. Rich or poor, it was how everyone in the ’80s kept score.”
Taking advantage of the issue’s color capability, art director Mitch Shostak and his associate, Anthony Kosner, brought to the page design the era’s flash and jaggedness, as well as its more sober and even stately sides. Says Shostak: “We drew from the energies of the decade.” So is it time to start remembering the ’80s? You bet, says senior writer Brad Darrach. “So much happens so rapidly these days that we need a review course.” A first-rate review is what follows.