October 04, 1989 12:00 PM

This planet is exploding. In the 1980s global population ballooned by 800 million and annual world production leaped by more than $3 trillion. Freedom erupted from Argentina to the Philippines, and gales of glasnost ripped through the Soviet empire. Millions hit the fast track for gold and glory. Satellites, fiber optics, fax and TV swaddled the globe in a crazy quilt of information. But problems grew just as fast. Epidemics of terrorism, drugs, crime, AIDS, homelessness, hunger and pollution raged over the globe. Life in the ’80s, in short, was protean, exuberant—and often dangerous. Turn the page and get the picture.

In the rockets’ red glare, with millions watching on the air, America celebrated the grand old girl’s 100th, on July 4, 1986.


In the chilling photograph above, ex-Beatle John Lennon autographed his new album for Mark David Chapman—who hours later shot him dead near Lennon’s Manhattan apartment house. That night and all the next day thousands of horror-stricken fans (right) assembled in Central Park, near Lennon’s residence, and held a vigil in his memory.

Pac-Mania gripped the land. The first video-game superstar, Mighty Mouth eventually gobbled $2 billion for Atari. Then the frontier shifted from arcades to homes.

In a glorious upset (left), an underdog U.S. hockey team clobbered a Soviet squad that had trounced the NHL’s best—and went on to win the gold.

Miami was inundated by 125,000 refugees arriving on small craft from Castro’s Cuba (right). Most started new lives here. In 1985, after years of detention, 2,746 criminals and mental patients were returned to Cuba.

Electrician Lech Walesa (here with daughter) heroically defied the Polish regime, led a shipyard strike in Gdansk and founded the national union Solidarity. Later he survived jail and, in 1989, brought the opposition to power after a landslide win at the polls.

The Iran-Iraq war began with an Iraqi attack and dragged on for eight years. More than a million were killed or wounded, and Iran’s economy was wrecked. A truce of exhaustion is now in force.

Richard Avedon’s lens and Brooke Shields‘s hips made Calvin Klein’s name the seat of fashion.

In Washington, Mount St. Helens blew its top, killing 57, flattening 150 sq. miles of forest, covering 12,000 sq. miles with ash. Total damage: $2.7 billion.

Panda-mom-ium reigned when Ling-Ling was unsuccessfully inseminated in Washington, D.C.,’s zoo. She later gave birth to four cubs. None has survived.


Bob Hope stood by as Ronald Reagan, sworn in as the 40th U.S. President, inaugurated a Republican Camelot.

After 19 years at anchor for CBS, Walter Cronkite retired, and Dan Rather took over.

California’s $14 billion fruit and vegetable crop was menaced by Mediterranean fruit flies, but intensive spraying at last brought the problem under control.

The 52 U.S. hostages seized when Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were released after 444 days of internment and flown to West Germany as Reagan took his oath of office.

Sandra Day O’Connor (with Chief Justice Warren Burger) became the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Two world leaders escaped assassination by a hair’s breadth. Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, a psycho trying to impress movie star Jodie Foster. Pope John Paul II was hit by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk who said he worked for the Bulgarian secret police.


A smoldering dispute over the Falkland Islands flared into bloody conflict. Argentina occupied the British-held islands; Britain mounted a successful counterinvasion but sustained heavy losses: six ships and 256 lives.

It was a sad day for samurai when John Belushi died of a cocaine-heroin overdose.

Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-T.S. Eliot meow-sical, opened on Broadway, where it’s still purring right along.

David Letterman (here with Lauren Hutton) made people stay up for stupid pet tricks.

Calling it “the largest wedding ceremony in history,” Rev. Sun Myung Moon married 2,075 couples in Madison Square Garden.

The Equal Rights Amendment, assuring women the same legal status as men, fell short, ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states.


When terrorists crashed a TNT-laden truck into Marine HQ in Beirut, 260 U.S. marines were killed and 75 wounded. Four months later U.S. forces evacuated.

Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay hit big in a summer sizzler, Risky Business.

Claiming Americans were at risk, the U.S. invaded Grenada, ousted Cuban advisers and leftist officials and installed a friendly regime.

KAL Flight 007, bound for Seoul from Alaska, strayed into Soviet air space and was shot down. All 269 aboard died. The Russians declared the plane was spying and did not apologize. (Japanese TV simulated the scene, above.)

Samantha Smith, an 11-year-old Maine schoolgirl, toured Russia as Yuri Andropov’s guest and later died in a plane crash.

Boy George, Britain’s answer to Tiny Tim, asked America Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?


Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic nominee for Vice President, was the first woman to run on a major party’s national ticket. But she was buried in the Reagan landslide.

Vanessa Williams, first black Miss America, lost her crown when nude photos of her were printed in Penthouse.

A dream race turned into a nightmare when Mary Decker, 26, and Zola Budd, 18, met in the Olympic 3,000-meter finals in Los Angeles. They bumped. Decker fell, injured. Budd finished seventh.

William Schroeder was one of five recipients of a permanent Jarvik-7 heart (foreground). He survived the longest: 620 days.

Mary Lou Retton, 16, became the first American woman ever to win an individual Olympic Gold Medal in gymnastics.

In Bhopal, India, 1,700 were killed when a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a Union Carbide plant. The company paid $470 million damages.

Famine ravaged East Africa from Mozambique to the Sudan. But Ethiopia was hardest hit: Drought, civil wars and a cynical Communist regime combined to create a disaster. With 6 million Africans starving, Western countries made major shipments of food and aid. But by 1989 millions had died, and the situation was no better.

In Splash, topless mermaid Daryl Hannah persuaded millions that fish was their favorite dish.

The title of George Orwell’s most famous book finally arrived on calendars, inspiring a spate of self-examination. Had the totalitarian nightmare of 1984 come true? In the Western democracies—no. In Cambodia, South Africa and many Communist nations—partly.

Faced with Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua and leftist guerrillas in El Salvador, the U.S. backed a Salvadoran liberal, José Napoléon Duarte (below), and a ragged army of Nicaraguan rebels called contras (at training base in Costa Rica, left). Duarte was elected President and founded a shaky democracy. The contras, in and out of favor with Congress, made little headway and by 1989 had ceased to be a force.


Thanks largely to flight attendant Uli Derickson, who kept cool and maintained contact (in German) with the Palestinian hijackers, 151 passengers and crew survived the taking of TWA Flight 847. Navy diver Robert Stethem did not.

Year’s biggest star: The Chicago Bears’ 308-lb. William (The Refrigerator) Perry.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his stature certified by the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, interceded to halt bloodshed at home and urged Americans to press for divestiture.

Two huge earthquakes rocked Mexico City on two successive days. “It looked as if a giant foot had stepped on the buildings,” said U.S. envoy John Gavin.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the gutsy, giggly, 4’7″ Babe Ruth of the orgasm, made the airwaves safe for zexual discussion.

Bernhard Goetz was hailed, and reviled, for shooting four black youths who tried to rob him on a New York subway.

Tina Turner and Mick Jagger sang in a 16-hour Live Aid show that raised $84 million for famine relief.


With royal pomp and circumstance, Britain’s Prince Andrew, 26, married buxom, pranksome Sarah Ferguson, 26, in Westminster Abbey as 1,800 guests (among them two of the bride’s ex-lovers) and 300 million TV watchers kibitzed. The bride carried a 17.5-foot silk train and promised to “obey.” After a honeymoon in the Azores, the couple returned to royal reality: $1.5 million worth of unreturnable wedding gifts.

In history’s worst nuclear accident, a Soviet reactor at Chernobyl exploded, killed 31, forced 135,000 to evacuate and showered Europe with fallout (here checked by West German technicians).

She is the Philippine Joan of Arc. Widow of a politician murdered by Marcos loyalists, Cory Aquino ran for President, won, exiled Marcos, set up a fragile democracy.

As housing costs rose, more and more Americans lost the struggle to keep a roof over their heads. By 1985,350,000 were homeless. By 1989, 3 million.

Hollywood hardjaw Clint Eastwood, elected mayor of Carmel, Calif., fired the officials who had denied him a building permit. Made his day

Provoked by terrorist attacks backed by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, the U.S. bombed three of his bases and his residential compound. Shaken, Gaddafi called off his thugs.

Disaster struck the shuttle program. Bad judgment by NASA and a faulty O-ring caused the Challenger to blow up 74 seconds after lift-off. All aboard were lost. Inset, clockwise from top left: astronauts Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnick, Ronald McNair, Dick Scobee, Michael Smith. Flaws in the lift-off vehicle were corrected, and flights were resumed in 1989.

Vanna White is definitely more interesting than a Pet Rock. On Wheel of Fortune she changed letters and wore a new dress every day. She even said “bye-bye.” No Pet Rock could do these things. Still, it does seem strange that millions of Vannamaniacs think it’s nirvana to be near Vanna.


Wall Street’s increasingly strident Chicken Littles were finally proved correct on Black Monday, Oct. 19, when the sky fell on the five-year bull market. The Dow dropped an unprecedented 508.32 points, and investors lost $500 billion. But predictions of imminent depression failed to materialize. In ’89 a surging Dow surpassed precrash levels.

Calling him a threat to civil rights, a Senate majority denied Judge Robert Bork a seat on the Supreme Court.

Pit-bull panic inspired a rash of local laws to control a savage breed that killed and maimed, often without provocation.

America’s Cup came home. Skipper Dennis Conner, the ’83 loser, outran the defending Aussies in a stunning 4-0 victory.

While millions prayed, rescuers tunneled to an 18-month-old Texas tot trapped 29 feet down a well. After 58 hours they got Baby Jessica out.

Democrat Gary Hart was a presidential front-runner until he ran into Donna Rice, spent a frolicsome weekend aboard a yacht called Monkey Business and was found out by nosy reporters. He quit the race, got back in but sank in the primaries.


For Michael and Kitty Dukakis, triumph in August turned to debacle in November. He won the Democratic presidential nomination, made an uneasy truce with Jesse Jackson, then ran a disastrously inept campaign, scanting the party’s liberal values and promising instead a passionless rule of competence. Bored millions voted for George Bush—Dukakis carried only 10 states and the District of Columbia.

“I have sinned!” sobbed televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, caught with a prostitute.

Tracy Chapman emerged as a voice of conscience, singing powerful songs about life in the shadows of an affluent society.

Nine years after her father, a former prime minister, was executed, Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto became the first woman leader of a Muslim nation.

The Palestinian struggle entered a dire new phase on the West Bank as Arab youths hurled stones and imprecations against Israeli soldiers in an intifadeh (insurrection) that lost every skirmish but won wide sympathy.

Pan Am Flight 103, a 747 flying from London to New York, was blown out of the air over Lockerbie, Scotland, by a bomb hidden in a cassette player. The toll: 11 villagers, 259 passengers and crew, among them 35 Syracuse University students.

Steroids cost Canada’s Ben Johnson an Olympic gold medal. A subsequent inquiry suggested wide steroid use in amateur sports.

At Seoul, flashing more than her gaudy nails, “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner, the world’s fastest woman, bagged three golds and a silver.

In Soviet Armenia 55,000 people were killed and 514,000 left homeless by a quake that the area’s frail buildings could not withstand.

ABC’s cult hit thirtysomething featured a funny, funky cast and a hip script about baby boomers raising babies, sweating careers, saving marriages (or not) and trying desperately to keep warm through the Big Chill.


After a dismally unedifying campaign, George Bush became the 41st President of the United States and moved into the White House with the Silver Fox, a.k.a. wife Barbara.

Accused of betting on his own team, Cincinnati skipper Pete Rose was permanently banned from baseball.

China took a Great Leap Backward. Seizing Tiananmen Square, students demanded civil rights and an end to corruption. Protests soon broke out all over China. The Politburo waffled, then massacred thousands.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law limiting the right to abortions, pro-choice advocates massed in Washington.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution, died at 89, and a million frenzied mourners followed his cortege. In the melee, his body was pulled from the coffin as the crowd snatched at its linen shroud.

The Exxon Valdez 11 million-gallon oil spill fouled 1,000 miles of Alaskan shoreline, wrecked the area’s fishing industry and killed thousands of aquatic mammals and seabirds.

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